By Zac Taylor
Harrisburg’s political will to be tough on drug dealers in school zones has turned into a veritable industry of snitches in Centre County, especially in the area in and around Penn State University.
With a mandatory sentence of two to four years to hang over the heads of college students caught with a joint’s worth of marijuana in their pockets, District Attorney Michael Madeira has been able to turn students against students, setting up drug deals that some say never would have happened.
“A kid came into my room with an undercover cop and bought some pot,” said one student who eventually turned snitch. Jeff, who asked not to use his real name, was maintaining a 3.5 Grade Point Average and until two years ago had never been in trouble with the law. Police charged him with three felony counts for three sales, and even after cooperating with the district attorney’s office, Jeff pleaded to a lesser charge, but remains a convicted felon.
The school zone mandatory minimum mandates that anyone caught dealing drugs within 1,000 feet of any school zone be sentenced to two to four years behind federal bars.
The statute was designed to discourage drug sales in the vicinity of elementary schools in big cities like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. But university zones are not immune from the SZM jurisdiction–qualifying most of the State College area as a school zone. Read more »