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Question of the day

Tuesday, Aug 22, 2006

[Sorry everything is so late this morning. I had one of those “But I don’t wanna go to school” experiences with myself.]

First, read this:

Illinois ranks second in the number of individuals incarcerated for drug offenses, a new report finds.

The study, conducted by Roosevelt University’s Institute for Metropolitan Affairs, shows that the state locked up nearly 13,000 drug offenders in 2002. Only California — which put away 40,000 — posted higher numbers.

Drug offenders represent the fastest-growing segment of the Illinois prison population, according to the report. In 1983, 1.9 percent of prisoners statewide were convicted of drug possession. By 2002, that number had swelled to 20.4 percent.

An analysis of the U.S. Department of Justice data also shows a large disparity in the incarceration of black and white drug offenders. Illinois ranks second only to Maryland in the number of blacks imprisoned on drug convictions.

When looked at on a per-capita basis, the state ranks first, followed by Maryland, second; Mississippi, third; and Ohio, fourth. […]

Illinois taxpayers spent more than $280 million to incarcerate drug offenders in 2002, the most recent year for which the U.S. Department of Justice statistics are available.

Now, the question: What, if anything, should be changed in Illinois drug laws? Also, should the governor step in and commute the sentences for non-violent drug offenders incarcerated for relatively small amounts?

UPDATE: The Tribune story fills in at least one item that commenters are questioning.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Illinois locked up more people for selling drugs than for possessing them. But by 2002, the reverse was true […]

[Year] Sale / Possession
1983 264 180
1993 4,336 1,976
2002 5,761 6,999

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - annoyed all the time - Tuesday, Aug 22, 06 @ 11:11 am:

    For non-violent offenders of small ammount I think tax dollars would be better spent having them do their time in community service and in rehab. I am not familiar enough with all the drug laws but think the key as always is rehab, counseling and training either during, in addition, or depending on the circumstances instead of prison time.

  2. - Lovie's Leather - Tuesday, Aug 22, 06 @ 11:34 am:

    commute all marijuana sentences… anything “harder” that marijuana, in my opinion, is extremely detrimental to society. Cocaine, LSD, meth… let ‘em sit in jail. They deserve it.

  3. - Cassandra - Tuesday, Aug 22, 06 @ 11:42 am:

    I think it is unrealistic and even unfair to expect any governor to deal with this problem
    by commuting sentences. Why are these sentences
    being issued in the first place.

    And what politician of any party is going to run on a platform of letting drug users out of jail.
    Political death.

    Even if one of them had the courage to do this, the public employee unions would be the first ones crying foul. There is a large state prison bureaucracy, union and merit comp, which benefits
    massively, along with their union, from this highly dysfunctional system.

    And while this is a problem that all politicians should address, black politicans representing heavily black districts have been astonishingly silent about it, despite the disproportionately negative effect on black communities.

  4. - anon - Tuesday, Aug 22, 06 @ 11:47 am:

    There is a big difference between the users and the dealers. My guess is most of the users are in because of repeat offenses (3 strikes law kicks in?).

  5. - 105th Blues - Tuesday, Aug 22, 06 @ 11:48 am:

    Is it the law doing it or is it because there is an out of control Meth problem in Illinois? What are the correlations Rich? Immediately assuming the high rate of incarceration is due to the effects of the law may not be true. I personally think it is an abnormally high concentration of meth addicts and manufacturers.

  6. - Wumpus - Tuesday, Aug 22, 06 @ 11:52 am:

    Treat MJ, X and other minor stuff with punishments by fine/community service. Why waste the sapce adn dollars on throing these folks in prison.

  7. - capitol view - Tuesday, Aug 22, 06 @ 12:00 pm:

    the figure for inmates is actually low — many property crime offenders and personal assault offenders committed their crimes in order to secure money for drugs. So the percent of criminals in prison for drug related offenses is much higher than the statistics for actual drug crimes.

  8. - Common Sense - Tuesday, Aug 22, 06 @ 12:00 pm:

    Non-violent drug offenders should be sent to rehab instead of prison. Dollar for dollar, it’s the most effective way to prevent repeat offenses. If the prison system was designed to rehabilitate people instead of just warehousing them, we would be in much better shape overall.

  9. - Lovie's Leather - Tuesday, Aug 22, 06 @ 12:06 pm:

    I know many drug users. Of those many, 6 or 7 of them went to rehab… guess what? They are still using drugs. Rehab is generally ineffective for serious drugs in my experience. Nothing like time to sit and think, and go through withdraw to “rehab” a person.

  10. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Aug 22, 06 @ 12:09 pm:

    He will only commute their sentences if they agree to register to vote first.

  11. - HANKSTER - Tuesday, Aug 22, 06 @ 12:15 pm:

    Shift individual drug use penalties to a fineable and/or rehabilitation offense. Make drug possession while committing a crime an aggravating circumstance. Go after dealers hard.

  12. - Rick - Tuesday, Aug 22, 06 @ 12:21 pm:


    We already have laws to handle other criminal offenses related to drugs, but for mere peaceful possession or use, let them walk.

    Otherwise, we’ll turn the country into a police state. Some would say we’re already there–look at the abuse of forfeiture laws.

  13. - richard daily - Tuesday, Aug 22, 06 @ 12:22 pm:

    I’m guessing the large disparity between black/white incarceration is due as much to income class as skin color. Still, elected representatives in the black community have let (kept)their people down for a number of years, now.

  14. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Aug 22, 06 @ 12:47 pm:

    Why can’t marijuana laws parallel alcohol laws? How many go to jail for breaking various alcohol possession laws? How many go to jail for alcohol-related driving offenses, even personal injury accidents? A lot of those alcohol offenders get supervision which is not exactly punishment.

    Absolutely raise the fines for illegal possession alcohol and marijuana. A couple hundred dollars means nothing, a couple of thousand dollars - ouch. Put a brick on the offender’s paycheck so the jurisdiction does not have to wait for payment. Mandatory counseling. Raise the fine exponentially for each offense.

    Multiple offenses - see ya!
    Distribution of drugs - see ya much later!

  15. - North of I-80 - Tuesday, Aug 22, 06 @ 12:54 pm:

    Sure, let them loose and we’ll make sure that they move into YOUR neighborhood. Maybe a lot of them can pool their $$ and buy all of the houses around yours so YOU can enjoy the benefits of early release, parole, probation and commuted sentences. Might be convenient for your kids to have convicted drug dealers living next door and behind your house. Look at Maricopa County (AZ) sheriff Joe Arpaio to see how corrections SHOULD be done.

    Whenever we look at quotas of success or failure based on skin color, I ask why we are wasting time looking at this… is the makeup of the NBA based on skin color or performance results? When your wife is hit by a drunk driver, do you care what skin color of the offender is involved? When looking at SAT or ACT test scores, is it skin color that matters? FICA scores don’t adjust up or down on skin color. Is the racial mix of professional boxers the “correct” ratio? Is the racial mixture of jailed offenders “correct” along the Mexican-American border? One more… see if you can find the racial mixture of those paying all US and IL income taxes. Do you think that the skin color mixture is “correct”? If we are going to mandate SOME things be done based on skin color or sex or ethnicity, then we need to do it for EVERYTHING, which will include $$$ received for welfare, WIC, etc. We will need to adjust the $$$ paid to all property taxes and incomes taxes to correctly reflect skin color percentages… right?

  16. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Aug 22, 06 @ 12:54 pm:

    But… Isn’t it anti-capitalist to say let the consumers do what they want and toughen penalties against the people who are responding to market forces?

  17. - Still Anon - Tuesday, Aug 22, 06 @ 12:59 pm:

    The whole thing is appalling. There’s clearly a racial bias when the same amount of crack cocaine and white powder get treated differently, and while meth accounts for some of it, this curve began going upward before the meth epidemic. Unfortunately, it’s political suicide for a legislator to propose lesser penalties, and the same would be true for commuting sentences. Notwithstanding Lovie’s condemnation,(and we don’t lock up alcoholics or compulsive gamblers) I have a hard time believing anyone deserves incarceration for mere use (as opposed to dealing) - and Cap View is right, the secondary offenses stemming from addiction are legion. And once an individual is identified as an ex-offender, his chances of getting a job that lets him become a “productive” member of society fall through the floor. Treatment, jobs programs, oh - and good education, starting with preschool, would do far more than all the prisons in the state to solve or at least diminish the problems resulting from drug abuse and would be a much more productive use of the taxpayers’ money.

  18. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Aug 22, 06 @ 1:04 pm:

    Anyone who follows IL politics is likely to start hitting the pipe

  19. - Smokey Joe - Tuesday, Aug 22, 06 @ 1:16 pm:

    Legalize marijuana, tax it and pay off this massive deficit with it.

  20. - chinman - Tuesday, Aug 22, 06 @ 1:27 pm:

    I think I have made my position on this issue clear.

  21. - Lovie's Leather - Tuesday, Aug 22, 06 @ 1:36 pm:

    “But… Isn’t it anti-capitalist to say let the consumers do what they want and toughen penalties against the people who are responding to market forces?”
    Yeah, Rich, there is a big market out there for murder-for-hire. Gosh, isn’t it so sad that things like morality and ethics get in the way of capitalism…

  22. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Aug 22, 06 @ 1:37 pm:

    North of I-80, I’m sensing you harbor a teensy bit of anger on the race issue. lol

    Perhaps you could do us a favor and take a deep, slow breath before you write another comment. Thanks.

  23. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Aug 22, 06 @ 1:41 pm:

    Lovie,. I doubt there is any acceptance for hiring out murders. But there seems to be quite a bit of acceptance for users of relatively benign illegal drugs. Your response, therefore, is not logical and the question I posted in comments remains.

    I’ll give you the same advice as North of I-80… take a deep breath and think before you post.

  24. - Wumpus - Tuesday, Aug 22, 06 @ 1:46 pm:

    Don’t give Blago any ideas, we will be selling the Chronic in baggies emblazend with Blago’s name.

  25. - Political Junkie - Tuesday, Aug 22, 06 @ 1:47 pm:

    I’m with Smokey Joe. Make marijuana legal and sell it over the counter just like they do tobacco products and alcohol. Enforce really strict penalties for selling to minors.

  26. - HANKSTER - Tuesday, Aug 22, 06 @ 1:55 pm:

    Rich, I think that most people think some things are more important and more accepted than maintaining a pure capatalist society, which noone in the world is.

  27. - Bluefish - Tuesday, Aug 22, 06 @ 2:31 pm:

    Smokie Joe is correct. Besides, putting a pothead in jail only takes someone who is most likely a regular working stiff (perhaps your friend, neighbor, the woman behind the counter where you bought your lottery ticket, the waiter at your favorite restaurant) and exposes them to the worst our criminal justice system has to offer. The money wasted keeping them in jail combined with the tax revenue lost be keeping this sizable economy underground is the true crime.

  28. - North of I-80 - Tuesday, Aug 22, 06 @ 2:37 pm:

    Cops keep track of citations, searches, arrests by race. The article above:

    “An analysis of the U.S. Department of Justice data also shows a large disparity in the incarceration of black and white drug offenders. Illinois ranks second only to Maryland in the number of blacks imprisoned on drug convictions.”

    I ask why does race come up at all? The original questions were about drug offenses and incarcerations and with the above quote, an attempt is made to make it look like it is a racial issue instead of a crime issue. When police officers keep track of racial profile info on their tickets, nowhere is it tracked what race the police officer is. Black officer arrests a black offender and it “looks” like it is a race issue. A black officer arrests a white offender and it “looks” like it is not a racial issue. Crime, whether it is shoplifting or drug dealing or armed robbery is an equal opportunity choice that has nothing to do with skin color or sex or place of birth. When stats are collected and articles like above are written that suggest that more green people are sitting in jail for some minor infraction, what is the expected outcome? That those bad police are jailing all the green people for some arbitrary law…. It misdirects the real issue; crime is crime. It is color blind. When it happens, deal with it or it will spread and increase and hurt more innocent people instead of redirecting the blame for it to the cops.
    When citizens feel bad about how many criminals are in jail [whoever they are and for whatever reason], where would the citizens like these people to go? If you spot drug dealing going on next door to you, it isn’t a race issue. You want it stopped and right away. But for all those who want to release or commute the drug dealers, then they will wind up next door or perhaps next to the school where your kids go.

  29. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Tuesday, Aug 22, 06 @ 3:31 pm:

    Miller: thanks for highlighting this story. This kind of public policy debate is what makes Capitolfax such an invaluable forum.

    First, we could pass the YDD Plan, which has been adopted in 26 other states, including Texas:

    In July, Republican Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed legislation passed by the state’s GOP-controlled legislature diverting low-end drug offenders from prison into treatment. That law is expected to redirect 2,500 inmates from Texas prisons into treatment and save $115 million over the next five years.

    Secondly, before we start poo-pooing drug treatment as ineffective, riddle me this: just how effective has incarceration been as a strategy? Answer: not very.

    Drug treatment is very effective — and much more cost-effective — as evidenced by the success at Sheridan Correctional Center’s new drug treatment program. But the program is successful because it recognizes that 30 days in detox alone is not enough to help people break the cycle of addiction.

    The slogan at Narcotics Anonymous, just like Alcoholics Anonymous, is: “Once and addict, always an addict.”

    That doesn’t mean people can’t stop using drugs, but it means that there is always a danger of slipping back into using. Most treatment experts will tell you that medical treatment is only one leg of a four-legged stool. Victims also need ongoing psychological counselling and support, a safe place to live, and a good-paying job. And even then, no program is 100% effective. Neither are condoms, but it’s still good public health to use them.

    As Deanne Benos from IDOC said today: release a drug addict into the very same environment and very same circumstances that they were in when they came into prison, and you can’t be shocked when they start using again.

    The other most important thing the state could do is start fully funding drug treatment programs. Right now, there are roughly 10,000 people waiting — waiting — to get into a treatment program. How long can we reasonably expect someone to wait for help? The Tribune did a story earlier this year about a family that wanted to help their son get off of heroin in the suburbs. They had to fly him to Georgia to get him into a program, at a cost of thousands and thousands of dollars. I’m glad he got the help he needed, but lets be honest, most families touched by drug addiction don’t have those kinds of resources.

  30. - Statistics really don't tell the story! - Tuesday, Aug 22, 06 @ 4:07 pm:

    O.K., here are some “unscientific truths” as I see them, presented in a random order.

    Here is what happens: Defendant “A” is arrested for selling an ounce of powder cocaine to an undercover officer. He gets charged with “Unlawful Delivery of A Controlled Substance” and “Unlawful Possession Of A Controlled Substance”. The “Delivery” is a Class X felony, the “Possession” is class 1 or 2, I can’t remember. He goes to court, the overworked prosecutor makes a deal with the defense attorney. The “Delivery” charge is dismissed, he pleads guilty to the “Possession” charge and Walla!, you have yourself a convicted “drug user” going to prison. Lies, damn lies and statistics, people!!!!! Nobody, (not many anyway), goes to prison for possessing their own stash!

    Meth offenders tend to be white. The ones who are arrested tend to be meth “cooks”, and they also tend to be prosecuted in Federal Court. Thus, not showing up in the state stats or going to state prison.

    Look at where the drug offenders in prison in Illinois are from: The inner city areas of Cook County, Rockford, Springfield, Decatur etc. Many are in gangs such as the Gangster Disciples, a mostly African American street gang that has made it’s bones selling crack cocaine. At one time, they were the main source of crack cocaine in Northern Illinois and Iowa, probably the entire Midwest. Now it’s crack and heroin. There is your race card. “Street level” drug dealers tend to get prosecuted in state court. See my comments on plea bargains above.

    Next question: What sorts of things are considered when someone is sentenced for a drug offense? Past offenses? Gang participation? Are white and African American offenders different in these regards? (Rhetorical question. I do not know the answer.)

    This all contributes to the undertone that cops and prosecutors unfairly target minorities. Undercover cops buy from whoever they can. They don’t care what the race is. Since most of these unfair cops are white, (right liberal boys and girls?)wouldn’t it be easier for them to blend in and buy dope in white neighborhoods????

    I always laugh when you pot heads come out of the woodwork and talk about people going to prison for a conviction for weed. You would have to have more than grams or ounces, merely possessed, to see prison time. Offenders with hundreds of pounds in their trunks in Illinois are getting 5 years every day in this state. And by the way, most law enforcement resources are spent tracking down “hard drug” dealers as opposed to weed dealers here.

    Lastly, unlawful possession of alcohol is a “status offense”. That means it is only illegal because of the age of the violator. Really no logical comparison I can see.

    Any of this making sense??? Hit Me! I can take it!

  31. - C.L.I.C.K. for Justice and Equality - Tuesday, Aug 22, 06 @ 4:08 pm:

    If the drug crime is not a felony, the conviction can be expunged. If the person has established a history of rehabilitation, the person should be allowed to join society as a responsible citizen. The drug laws do not have to be changed, they need to be enforced. The courts and some police are allowing the offenders to go free. Its big business. They have to let a drug offender stay on the street for at least 6 months so the drug dealer/offender can groom the next drug dealer/offender. If this cycle is broken, the business of “profit” is gone. Only the small drug offender goes to jail. The offenders in the court room and the ones policing the street are still alive and well.

    Blagojevich’s Sheridan Project was put in place to establish a trend of non-recidivism for the drug dealer/offender. Since Blagojevich has allowed AFSCME the union to dictate how to run the Sheridan Project at Sheridan Correctional Center, you will see more recividism. A criminal might ask why should they stop using drugs or committing drug crimes, when the State allows crime to flourish for those working with and for the State. This State does not want recidivism to stop. If recidivism stops or drug crimes stop, a lot of people may lose their jobs. Rehabilitation is not in our penal system or courts. It is in the person. Read my blog on this issue at

  32. - Statistics really don't tell the story! - Tuesday, Aug 22, 06 @ 4:17 pm:

    Drug offender treatment is a good idea for drug users.

    I can’t get behind the idea that locking up drug dealers is ineffective.

    The people who deal drugs are very often involved in other violent crimes. Drug dealing is rarely their only offense. Putting them in prison prevents them from committing these violent crimes.

    Sorry if I don’t have any fancy data to back it up, but this is my belief after many years of seeing it first hand.

    Even if we don’t agree, this discussion is important. We need to solve this problem. Illegal drugs and it’s related carnage are killing, killing killing the poor and the not so poor and spawning misery.

  33. - cermak_rd - Tuesday, Aug 22, 06 @ 4:57 pm:

    Marijuana, X, and other light drugs should be taxed, and neither retailers nor consumers jailed unless there are other aggravating factors (selling it too close to a school, selling to minors etc.) I see no reason to put a pot smoker into rehab if his pot smoking is not screwing up his life or anyone elses.

    Users of more serious drugs should be treated where possible without incarceration. Dealers of the hard stuff should be imprisoned, but with an effort to get the people at the top of the enterprise rather than the low-hanging fruit of the street dealers themselves.

    Public Defenders should actually be competent to publicly defend against drug charges. I’m convinced that one of the reasons why there is such a gap between the races is the quality of the legal representation that one group can retain and the other group can’t.

  34. - CLICK - Tuesday, Aug 22, 06 @ 5:05 pm:


    You made some intelligent statements, and I agree that attempting to reduce recidivism in drug offenders is a worthwhile goal, but these two quotes below cause a complete credibility vacuum. Do you really believe this???

    “The courts and some police are allowing the offenders to go free. Its big business. They have to let a drug offender stay on the street for at least 6 months so the drug dealer/offender can groom the next drug dealer/offender.”

    “This State does not want recidivism to stop. If recidivism stops or drug crimes stop, a lot of people may lose their jobs.”

    Come On!!! That is tinfoil hat talk. I also think it was nice that Blago has once again put his name on a program that he likely had little to do with. It must not be YOUR program he put his name on. Are you a campaign worker or what?

  35. - BIG R.PH - Tuesday, Aug 22, 06 @ 5:06 pm:

    If you can’t do the time don’t do the crime!! (Baretta)

    I don’t want to sell Plan B and I don’t want to sell marijuana!

    Take the bad guys off of the streets. The $280 million is just the cost of doing business.

    Get over it!! Blago & Co. steal more than that on a daily basis. Lock ‘em up & throw away the key. You broke the law and you knew it.

  36. - Cermak Road - Tuesday, Aug 22, 06 @ 5:12 pm:

    I’m not buying your rubbish until you show me a statistic that demonstrates that more African Americans are represented by P.D.’s than whites.

    If you have ever been in a court room you would know that all these drug dealing dregs try to get represented for free. Regardless of race.

    Oh, those poor, mistreated drug dealers. My heart aches for them.

  37. - MIDSTATE - Tuesday, Aug 22, 06 @ 5:58 pm:

    Blagojevich’s Sheridan Project is a joke, just anyone in parole. If an ex-inmate is from Sheridan they will not violate him, just to keep the numbers up for Blogo’s press releases.

  38. - Squideshi - Tuesday, Aug 22, 06 @ 6:06 pm:

    The state needs to stop forcing people into useless, religous-based, 12-step programs.

    Despite their legendary effectiveness, more than enough scientific research shows that people in 12-step programs do no better, and sometimes worse, than people not in a 12-step program. It is a myth that 12-step programs are the best option for most people.

    There ARE alternatives that have been shown to work in most cases, such as Smart Recovery, which is based upon Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy, and many others.

    See also: The Orange Papers

  39. - fed up dem - Tuesday, Aug 22, 06 @ 6:26 pm:

    The numbers are probably worse now due to all the outpatient drug treatment money diverted to prisons by our wonderful governor.

  40. - Dave's Not here, man - Tuesday, Aug 22, 06 @ 10:08 pm:

    This problem was made worse in the 80’s when the republicans in charge rode the righteous indignation and fears of middle-class soccer mom voters with this big “get tough on crime” movement. It started the mass building of jails as economic stimulus program, and the push for mandatory sentencing rules that take discretion away from the judges.

    Drug rehab does work better, and we shoudl convert some of the under-use dprisons into more rehab centers, spread around the state, but it also needs to be backed up with serious support for more and better qualified parole officers, so their case loads are not ridiculous and the ex-cons feel a real presence watching them, and guiding their re-entry into society. When they come out, they have to be able to find jobs, which is almost impossible with a criminal record, unless the state spends lots more money on the bonding program, or does some kind of voodoo tot he records to hide them from employers but keep them available to law enforcement. Tricky stuff, that last one.

  41. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Tuesday, Aug 22, 06 @ 10:53 pm:

    Cermak Road ~~ no one’s talking about letting drug dealers off the hook. It’s drug addicts that are being locked up in record numbers. When some drug dealer does get busted, it’s usually some low-level runner, driver, or turf enforcer. It’s never the guys at the top of the food chain.

    Dave’s not here man ~~ I was trying not to turn it into a partisan issue, but you make a good point. Except that the Democrats soon entered into a game of one-upmanship with Republicans about who could do a better job of “sending a message” to criminals.

    I always thought we would be better off if we figured out how to prevent crime from happening or recurring, but some folks were more interested in sending telegrams.

    To their credit, alot of rank-and-file lawmakers now realize they goofed, but no one has the courage to fix it. The Criminal Code rewrite has been gathering cobwebs for about five years now. I say it’s long overdue.

  42. - C.L.I.C.K. for Justice and Equality - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 7:18 am:

    Someone read my earlier post wanting to know who I am. I am a Counselor III working for the Gateway Foundation (Gateway) at Sheridan Correctional Center (Sheridan).

    This State will never complete its mission, like so many others, if the news media does not report the real news. How can solutions be developed or enhanced for this problem if the public and private sector does not know the real problem?

    Gateway Foundation is contracted by the State of Illinois to provide substance abuse counseling at Sheridan. AFSCME’s, the union, bargaining unit created a strike on June 6, 2006. On August 22, 2006 AFSCME and Gateway met giving and receiving new proposals.

    Jan Dennis, Associated Press Writer, reported on August 22, 2006 “…Gateway has continued programs during the strike using management employees, and more than a dozen workers who have crossed picket lines….”

    Dennis does not report the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) has purposely and meliciously, working in concert with AFSCME, locked out Gateway employees who want to cross the picket line. I want to cross the picket lines and return to work. I am a similarly situated employee working at Sheridan providing counseling to the inmates. IDOC has locked me out from my job reporting I have to be cleard first. I was cleared to work at Sheridan and began working at Sheridan on May 1, 2006. IDOC and AFSMCE have taken away my right to make a choice whether I want to strike or work.

    Who are the criminals? Are they any different than the people they incarcerate? AFSCME and Gateway are scheduled to meet again on August 31, 2006. Look at my website to read the real story involving this strike at Sheridan. This is only one of the reason this problem continues to exist.

  43. - To YDD - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 7:23 am:

    Please look at the second paragraph of the post I made at 4:07 P.M. I DO NOT believe that drug addicts are being locked up in record numbers! They are drug dealers that plead guilty to lesser charges.

    I think it is extremely important to understand how these numbers happened.

  44. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 11:15 am:

    Bottom line….we need forward, progressive thinking on a comprehensive response to drug use, production and distribution that focuses as much on treatment and rehabilitation as it does on punitive action.

    It would have been worth the Tribune’s time to also report that the abuse of over-the-counter and prescription drugs is greater than the abuse of marijuana, cocaine, heroine and almost every other illegal drug - combined.

  45. - Justice - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 12:47 pm:

    The cure for solving the drug problem is a long and arduous journey. It must start at home, where in many instances the support system is simply not in place. The next best fix for the problem is pre-school, grade school and on through high school. If it isn’t caught mid-grade school, it most likely won’t be caught. Education regarding drugs should be part of every WIC program and every head-start program. It should be emphasized to every kid starting school just as math and reading are. You aren’t going to remedy the system by giving in to drugs of a “lesser evil.” The lesser evil will simply escalate over time. Early education is the answer. The other reality is “you knew it was wrong, take the punishment.” A nice stint in the house will help you break the habit. I have seen friends lose homes, spouses, and jobs due to mj. I can only imagine the effects of crack and meth. They chose their direction in life. Don’t put their failure back on everyone else. Get off their but, get out of jail, get a job, and live within the law.

  46. - I want to echo what Justice said - Wednesday, Aug 23, 06 @ 4:56 pm:

    First of all, I will say right up front that I am a police officer involved in drug enforcement.

    Treatment and prevention are valuable, but enforcement is my game.

    My wife is at a company meeting. Last night she called me and among other things she told me that she met a co-worker from a large town in Iowa. My wife told him about my employment. The co-worker recently lost his son to a heroin overdose. He was in his late teens. He experimented with marijuana and within a year was snorting then injecting heroin. Heroin that was wholesaled from Chicago then transported to Iowa by a low to mid-level dealer.

    She told him the frustrations that we as police officers face with courts, attorneys and a portion of the public that percieves enforcement as a waste of time. His message for me was to never give up, that what I do every day might prevent what happened to his son from happening to another kid.

    This isn’t only an African American problem, it isn’t a Latino problem, it isn’t only a problem of the poor, it is everybody’s problem. In my view, from what I have witnessed first hand, marijuana is dangerous. “Justice” that posted above has it right. Giving in to a lesser evil is not the best plan.

    Enforcement can’t be THE plan, it has to be PART of the plan. Treatment and prevention have a place too. Unfortunately we seem to be breeding a larger and larger segment of society that just doesn’t have a chance.

    Someone posted above said that the state doesn’t want to cure this problem. I think that is crazy talk. I would like nothing better than to never have to investigate another drug crime or drug related violent crime ever in my career.

  47. - Anonymous - Thursday, Aug 24, 06 @ 11:42 pm:

    We’ve got a huge budget problem in Illinois, but is any politician willing to reduce prison costs by using more creative punishments for non-violent offenders (leg shackled home arrest?) and focusing money on prevention?

    Why do kids start doing drugs? Some rebel, others are lonely/outcast and are easily manipulated by anyone who accepts them. So, there’s plenty of opportunity for a charismatic, entreprenuerial kid trying to make some “easy” money. Start with “free” samples of the light stuff so kids get the impression drug laws are stupid because those drugs aren’t very dangerous (especially to invincible youth).

    Later, they’ll experiment with heavier stuff because the light stuff didn’t hurt or hook them. Soon they’re hooked and the entreprenuer is now dealing bigger business and property crimes are on the rise to support the addiction since these youth don’t yet have many job skills.

    The reason we have so many drug crimes is because making them illegal and enforcing the laws raises the value of breaking the law when youth demand for risk remains strong. So, we tempt charismatic risk takers to break the law and make a fortune. What’s wrong with this picture?

    The solution is eventually making the light drugs legal, but restricted and taxed like cigarettes. Then, charismatic young entreprenuers don’t see opportunity in illegal behavior and the high price discourages youth from experimenting, rather than bans encouraging them to test boundaries.

    Politically, we need to start by stepping down penalties on non-violent, light drugs from felonies to misdemeanors with a maximum of house arrest in GPS leg shackles. Feel free to add lots of fines, but offer choices of community service, counseling, and drug rehab to reduce fines. This will save taxpayers a fortune by reducing the need for costly prisons created by excessive laws that do nothing to solve the problem. In fact, jailing non-violent criminals only makes it worse in the long run by expanding criminal networks formed in our criminal universities (aka prisons).

    Eliminating the low risk, relatively high reward training grounds for dealing more serious drugs would dramatically reduce total numbers of dealers and users, allowing police to better focus resources on violence and more dangerous drugs (bearing in mind nicotine is more physically addictive than crack cocaine and much more deadly in the total number of people it kills). Be sure to raise penalties on dangerous drugs to make them far less attractive to young entreprenuers. Just imagine how many more criminals we’d have if nicotine were illegal. In other words, pick your battles carefully instead of fighting and taxing citizens more.

    More laws makes more criminals, which means more costly lawyers and jails draining taxpayers pockets to temporarily control other people’s lives without fixing the problems.

    Gateway drugs is an absurd slippery slope argument because light drugs are not very addictive or dangerous, but if they’re illegal, then they’re expensive, gangs emerge to control the dollars, and kids are more likely to resort to theft to pay for them. If they were legal, like nicotine, far less crime for money would occur.

    Excessive government laws also emerged in Nazi Germany where a pregnant women smoking was considered a crime against the child. Chicago bans the sale of foi gras, so now restaurants offer it for free, increasing demand instead of decreasing it.

    We need government to prevent violent crimes and dangerous addictions, but micromanaging citizen’s lives through excessive laws is wasting everyone’s time and money and needs to stop!

    The war against alcohol proved to be a stunning failure that restricted citizen freedom, created gangs and disrespect for the law, increased corruption and violent criminal activity, and failed to raise tax revenues. However, we spent a fortune to fight an endless war we could never win. Apparently we didn’t fully learn the lesson of prohibition…bans are far more dangerous to democracy than taxes or punishing abusers.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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