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Zero Tolerance

  • By: Sarah Boslaugh
  • In: Encyclopedia of Drug Policy
  • Edited by: Mark A. R. Kleiman & James E. Hawdon
  • Subject:Public Policy, Drug Crimes

Zero tolerance is an approach to regulating behavior in which every infraction of specified rules is punished without regard to extenuating circumstances and without granting discretion to those in authority to overlook or mitigate the specified punishment for an infraction. The idea behind zero tolerance is that clear and consistently enforced rules will encourage people to avoid breaking rules while a policy or practice of overlooking small infractions encourages people to commit larger crimes because they take it as an indication of license to misbehave. Zero tolerance policies also may be instituted in order to prevent discrimination (so that some people get away with violations while others are punished) and to protect those who must carry out the sanctions from blame since a zero ...

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