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Report Calls For Reform In Drug Sentencing

By Sam Bakken in News on Oct 8, 2004 9:47PM

A report released by the Center for Impact Research on Wednesday says that Illinois could have saved around $50 million through increased alternative sentencing for non-violent drug offenders.

Field of GreensAccording to the DEA's marijuana info sheet, with that money Illinois residents could buy at least 25,000 pounds of primo Daley-sanctioned reefer and still have a bit of cash left over to pay some fines! Of course, if Sgt. Tom Donegan's proposal is made into law, to qualify for the fines rather than jail time that 25,000 pounds would need to be split among 1,133,981 people.

The report says that if only 10% of nonviolent offenders were brought before drug court instead of sentenced traditionally we would have saved $15 million dollars. The drug court system emphasizes treatment rather than incarceration. The report also says that in the fiscal year 2001, the recidivism rate for inmates released that year was 54.6% and that drug courts could reduce that by 31%.

Now Illinois currently has 19 drug courts, four adult programs and one juvenile program in Cook County, but the report says that "aggressive policing and prosecution" of drug offenders in Illinois has increased incarcerations 57.3% between 1993 and 2002.
Authors of the report met with policy makers and public officials Wednesday to discuss the report. With Daley supporting the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana and the state possibly renewing emphasis on the drug court system, we could see some fairly progressive drug policy coming out of Illinois in the next year or so.