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February 1, 2011

State Commission reports that Illinois minorities get stiffer sentences for drug offenses

As detailed in this AP report, "minority populations in Illinois face stiffer and more frequent punishment for low-level drug offenses than whites, a government commission reported Monday." Here are the specifics:

The Illinois Disproportionate Justice Impact Study Commission said 19 percent of blacks arrested for Class 4 drug felonies end up in prison, compared to 4 percent of white offenders.  The study found a disproportionate number of minority arrests for drug-related crimes in 62 of 102 Illinois counties.

The commission said providing alternatives to prison could cut costs and help get people off drugs.  The alternatives include substance abuse treatment and educating offenders on the consequences of prison time, such as hurting their chances of getting a job.

Pam Rodriguez, president of the Treatment Alternative for Safe Communities, said she believes minorities often accept plea agreements that involve prison time instead of alternative sentencing.  That might be because they don't know about options other than prison, or poor communities may not have the money to offer alternatives.  Difficulties hiring lawyers also may contribute to the disparity, she said.

Some members of the commission filed a dissenting opinion questioning the report's conclusions. Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez said the report neglected to investigate why some people commit crimes repeatedly and others don't.  She said repeat offenders are more likely to end up in prison and that a larger percentage of minorities arrested are repeat offenders compared to whites.

State Rep. Dennis Reboletti, R-Elmhurst, joined in the dissent.  He said variables such as gang affiliation were not taken into account, making it difficult to conclude that trends were based solely on race.  Reboletti said he would like to see more money devoted to alternatives for low-level drug offenders, most of whom are addicts.

February 1, 2011 at 09:42 AM | Permalink


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What conclusion would one expect from a commission titled "Illinois Disproportionate Justice Impact Study"?

This result-oriented commission apparently did not control for prior record, leading inexorably to the conclusion they wanted from the outset.

Posted by: mjs | Feb 1, 2011 10:26:46 AM

When offered time payments for their $2000 in tickets or jail time, minority prisoners always chose prison time. No exception. At about $50 in fines per day, they got good value. Paid off their fine, and got excellent standard of housing, medical care, classes, social services, therapy, worth around $100 a day to duplicate, in a quiet, safe, contemplative place. So they made around $150 a day, tax free, worth around $250 taxable. Not many with no marketable skill could match the $250 in value with jobs paying $50,000 on the outside, needed to break even with paying the fines. Who knows how much they owed to the drug dealer looking for them on the outside? So the value of the security must be added to the value of prison.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Feb 1, 2011 10:49:33 AM

Perhaps, street savvy minority members know something when accepting longer prison terms. This reports disrespects their sophistication, and assumes their victimization, rather than their playing the system like a fiddle.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Feb 1, 2011 10:53:10 AM

Has anyone found the actual study text on the Web? I couldn't find anything but news stories and a "fact sheet" with insufficient information to evaluate this study.

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Feb 1, 2011 1:29:18 PM

I drew my inference from the State's Attorney comments regarding repeat offenders.

Posted by: mjs | Feb 1, 2011 4:09:41 PM

Say, the economic value of a life is over a million and this maybe not included or included for the drug offenses. The user and those who have allowed to be on the street instead of using privately is never acceptable to the public have far exceeded the value of their lives in costs. The protection of the drugs by the Supreme Court is really a taking so that lawyers can generate jobs from the work of criminals.

Posted by: House plans | Feb 2, 2011 3:10:47 AM

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