African Americans in Cook County 5 Times More Likely than Whites to Go to Prison for Low-Level Drug Offenses, New Report Reveals


(Chicago, IL) – January 31, 2011


A state commission today released a report that reveals that African Americans in Cook County charged with low-level drug crimes were sent to prison at a rate almost five times greater than whites in 2005, the most recent year for which the comprehensive data set was available.

The Illinois Disproportionate Justice Impact Study Commission, established in 2008 to examine the impact of Illinois drug laws on racial and ethnic groups, found in its independent research that, among Cook County defendants charged with a Class 4, low-level drug possession, 19 percent of African-American defendants were sentenced to prison, compared with 4 percent of white defendants.

Additionally, statewide arrest data indicated that disproportionality in drug arrests occurred in 62 of Illinois’ 102 counties, including urban, suburban, and rural areas. Racial disparities for drug arrests varied widely by county but tended to be greater in jurisdictions with smaller populations of nonwhite residents.

“The Commission has found that people of color, particularly African Americans, are disproportionately arrested, prosecuted, and imprisoned for low-level drug crimes in Illinois,” said State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago), co-chair of the commission.

“We need to change certain policies and practices so that justice is administered fairly across racial and ethnic lines,” said Hunter. “We need to divert non-violent drug offenders from expensive incarceration to rehabilitation programs, such as court-ordered drug treatment.”

“When it comes to arrests and prosecution for drug crimes, racial disproportionality affects communities in urban, suburban, and rural areas across Illinois,” said Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities (TASC) President Pamela Rodriguez, whose organization provided research support to the Commission. “The problem of disproportionate incarceration undermines the fundamental principles of a just society,” Rodriguez said. “It also creates a burden for every taxpayer.”

Both Hunter and Rodriguez emphasized that the focus now needs to be on solutions, contending that the Illinois General Assembly and Governor Pat Quinn should get behind the commission’s key recommendations to erase the disproportionate arrest and imprisonment of African Americans involved in low-level drug crimes in Illinois.

“We need to mitigate the lasting harm to families and communities created by the disproportionate administration of justice,” said Hunter. “The commission has identified practical recommendations, such as expanding sentencing alternatives that include drug treatment.”


2 thoughts on “African Americans in Cook County 5 Times More Likely than Whites to Go to Prison for Low-Level Drug Offenses, New Report Reveals

  1. I have obnly one question because the media does not always report…all of the facts. With the “disparity” rate…was the prior criminal histories of those people taken into factor when the “disparity” was alleged? If someone has prior criminal history, the sentencing guidelines are different.

    • The study would be misleading if that was the case. It said under the same circumstances the disparity
      exists. But any that have had a relative or friend go through this so-called American justice system, already knew this and whites know it to. That’s one of the reasons America must be destroyed as other great powers have been. One quick example for you Linsey Lohan have been given so many chances and even stole from a jewerly store while on probation and gets house arrest for only a couple of months. Their are many examples if you really sought the truth. I even heard one lawyer tell the judge his client was to pretty to go to jail, think about that.
      Karma awaits thee USA, lord knows it’s overdue.

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