05/09/2006 03:16 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Two Years for One Joint: Does the Punishment Fit the Crime?

MitchellLawrence.jpgA new video shows how one young man's life was turned upside down because of drug-free zone laws. Seventeen-year-old Mitchell Lawrence was sentenced to two years in jail for the crime of selling one joint's worth of marijuana to an undercover agent.

For a summary of the madness behind two years for one joint, check out Anthony Papa's article on AlterNet.

Not quite convinced these laws are bad?

A national report released earlier this year revealed that drug-free zone laws do not work.

The laws, which increase penalties for drug offenses within a certain proximity to institutions such as schools, are intended to create a safe haven for youth. In reality, 98 percent of people arrested in so-called "drug-free school zones" weren't selling drugs to children, and 95 percent of all sales aren't near any schools - according to the Justice Policy Institute. Most of those arrested never even knew they were in a so-called "drug-free" zone, making a mockery of the idea that it's a deterrent. What's more, they have an unintended racist impact: 97 percent of all people arrested in "drug-free zones" aren't white.

These laws empower fanatical prosecutors, remove judicial discretion, and are just one more reason why the U.S. has the world's highest rate of incarceration, both per capita and in absolute terms.