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|Officials Investigating State Drug Laws
|Are Illinois drug laws racially biased? That's what a new commission wants to find out.
The first of several meetings by the Illinois Disproportionate Justice Impact Study Commission was held in Chicago on Monday. The commission hopes to find why blacks and Latinos are more likely to be incarcerated on drug charges than whites.
A 2007 study by the Sentencing Project shows blacks in Illinois are imprisoned at a rate nine times greater than that of whites. That's despite facts showing drug use is similar among ethnic groups.
The commission heard from Tracy Siska, a researcher with the Chicago Justice Project. He says there isn't enough information to get a clear answer, in part because of a lack of communication by local state attorneys' offices.
For example, Siska says someone who is arrested for a drug crime but the case is dropped, is not statistically counted. He says unlike the Chicago Police Department and other agencies, a final tally of cases or arrests, along with other statistical information, is not released by state attorneys' offices. He says those offices cite privacy issues.
A spokeswoman for the Cook County State's Attorney challenged Siska and said some information was available by the Freedom of Information Act. But Siska contends that some cases never make it to the point where a FOIA request can be filed. He says most statistical numbers come from court documents and police arrest records.
Siska also notes that where police departments send their manpower to make arrests can also skew the numbers.
The commission plans on holding other hearings in the near future.
(Illinois Radio Network)
|02 23 10 by Newsroom
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