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A Truce in the War on Drugs? Part II.

by Mary C. Piemonte 

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson. Photo by Mary C. Piemonte.

Editor’s Note: The article below was produced as part of the Social Justice News Nexus, a program launched this year by Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications with a two-year grant from the McCormick Foundation.

Will Drug Courts Ease Prison Overcrowding?

Drug courts are becoming an increasingly popular topic of conversation among elected officials as they scramble to find solutions to punitive sentences for those charged with low-level drug-related crimes.

A large majority of these nonviolent offenders – with dependencies on alcohol, prescription and street drugs – are particularly hard hit with sentences that can lead some to life imprisonment.

In an exclusive interview in early February, U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin said he was “absolutely” in favor of the use of drug courts as an alternative means to incarcerations for low-level non-violent drug offenders. He added that money saved from imprisonment costs would be funneled into the use of more of them.

“What we’re trying to do is focus this money back into drug courts, which bring in people who would otherwise be prosecuted. [People] who they would say, ‘This isn’t criminal. This is an addict. Let’s deal with them that way.’ Do it for veterans. I think that makes more sense if you deal with a person whose real crime is addiction. Let’s get to them early before the addiction becomes even worse.”

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Categories: Homepage Investigative Reporting

A Truce in the War on Drugs? Part I.

by Mary C. Piemonte 

U.S. Se. Dick Durbin from Illinois speaks at a recent conference on reforming the War on Drugs. Photo by Mary C. Piemonte.

Editor’s Note: The article below was produced as part of the Social Justice News Nexus, a program launched this year by Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications with a two-year grant from the McCormick Foundation.

Now that American prisons are swollen to capacity with thousands of non-violent, low-level drug offenders, public officials – like powerhouse U.S. Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL), the majority whip, and even some judges – are shifting their attitudes about the War on Drugs.

Many of the inmates have addictions and many have been given harsh punitive sentences, including life without parole, after being charged with possession of small amounts of crack or powder cocaine, heroin or methamphetamine under laws established decades ago.

This growing number of officials are currently meeting around the country to rethink the drug war while modifying policies and revising procedures for charging and sentencing offenders under old drug laws.

All this is done in a drastic attempt to reduce the enormous costs to taxpayers of the criminal justice and prison systems while trying to rectify the disproportionate number of African Americans and Latinos locked behind cold steel bars.

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Categories: Homepage

Deadly Moves: Lack of Force

by Mary C. Piemonte and Brian J. Rogal

When Francine Washington noticed hordes of police officers outside U.S.

Cellular Field this spring, she walked toward the ballpark and counted them. The stadium, home of the Chicago White Sox, sits about three blocks west of the Stateway Gardens public housing development where she lives with her husband of 23 years.

For years, Francine Washington complained about open drug dealing in the first-floor lobby of the Stateway Garden high-rise where she lives. Only recently have routine police patrols in the building slowed the drug activity.
Photo by Mary Hanlon

“I went out there twice. The first time I counted 105 police officers out there. The next time I counted 107 officers,” said Washington, president of Stateway’s local advisory council, an elected tenant body.
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Categories: Investigative Reporting Uncategorized

Deadly Moves: Troubling Development

by Mary C. Piemonte and Brian J. Rogal

While Mayor Richard M. Daley is touting his plans to remake Chicago Housing Authority developments into mixed-income neighborhoods, a firm that manages one of his showcase communities is charging that the city is not doing enough to stop open drug dealing on its site.

The city has a lot riding on the Near West Side’s Westhaven Park. A failure to attract market-rate renters and buyers could set a bad precedent for other public housing redevelopment efforts.
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Categories: Investigative Reporting Uncategorized

Drug War Diagnosis

by Ethan Michaeli, Publisher 

Those who think the war on drugs is working had better visit the front lines.

The relocation of public housing residents has contributed to making Chicago’s murder rate the highest in the nation, according to a professor who has spent years working on the city’s policing programs.

Art Lurigio, a psychologist who is chairman of DePaul University’s Criminal Justice Department, said that the way the CHA is relocating residents is raising the murder rate in the city. Read more »

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Categories: Uncategorized