Press Release  | 05/09/2006

Two Years for One Joint: New Flash Movie Highlights Injustice

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18-Year-Old Mitchell Lawrence is in Jail Because of Bad Law, Cruel Prosecutor

Viewers Encouraged to Send Support to Lawrence Family and Change Misguided, Ineffective and Racist Drug-Free School Zone Laws

The Drug Policy Alliance is releasing a powerful flash movie that highlights the plight of 18-year-old Mitchell Lawrence, the teen now spending two years in jail for selling one joint's worth of marijuana to an undercover cop in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.

The two-minute movie introduces people to Mitchell Lawrence and the details of his case. The flash asks and then explains how an 18-year-old (he was 17 when arrested) who has never been in trouble before could be sentenced to two years in jail for selling such a minuscule amount of marijuana.

The movie states: "It takes two things: A bad law. And a cruel prosecutor."

Mitchell Lawrence received the two-year jail sentence because he was within 1,000 feet of a school and because the fanatical district attorney of Berkshire County, David Capeless, decided to press school zone charges, which trigger a mandatory minimum sentence of two years in prison.

The movie explains that, contrary to assumptions, the Drug-Free School Zone laws do nothing to protect children and are instead used to fill our prisons with people like Mitchell Lawrence. The flash explains:

  • 98 percent of people arrested in "Drug-Free School Zones" weren't selling drugs to children.
  • 95 percent of all sales aren't near any schools.
  • Most of those arrested have no idea they are in a so-called school zone.
  • 97 percent of all people arrested in "Drug-Free Zones" are Black or Latino.

The movie is being sent out to the Drug Policy Alliance's email list of 100,000 subscribers. After people view the flash they are encouraged to support the Mitchell Lawrence family and to help reform the disastrous "Drug-Free School Zone" laws.

Viewers of the movie are asked to show their solidarity with the Lawrence family by signing a letter of support to the family. The Drug Policy Alliance will send a candle on behalf of every person who signs the petition. The community of Berkshire County will be laying out the candles at a vigil this summer on the Court House steps in opposition to the inappropriate and harsh sentence.

Viewers are also asked to become members of the Drug Policy Alliance and help reform the ineffective "Drug-Free School Zone" laws. The Drug Policy Alliance recently commissioned a report authored by the Justice Policy Institute, "Disparity by Design: How drug-free zone laws impact racial disparity - and fail to protect youth." The report received national attention in USA Today, The Washington Post and hundreds of other media outlets across the country.

Tony Newman at (646) 335-5384

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