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Drug Laws Are Bad, Mmmkay?

By Margaret Lyons in News on Dec 4, 2007 10:13PM

2007_12_4.prison.jpgA report released today from the Justice Policy Institute compares drug imprisonment statistics for big counties and concludes that everything is messed up. Granted, the Institutes's slogan is "dedicated to ending society's reliance on incarceration," but the report is still fascinating and surprisingly easy to read.

Cook County has the ninth highest rate of admission to prison for drug offenses, with 166 out of every 100,000 people going to prison for a drug offense. But our rates of drug use--a little under 9 percent of people have used illicit drugs in the last month (we...would have guessed way higher)--aren't really that high. In fact, four of the ten least-imprisoning counties have higher rates of drug use. And Cook County imprisons blacks for drug offenses rate 58 times higher than it imprisons whites, which is the seventh worst racial disparity in the nation, and we probably don't need to tell you that the racial disparity nationwide is pretty shameful, too.

Illinois on the whole is in pretty much the same boat as Cook County. Statewide, the drug admission rate is 84 out of 100,000, which puts us fifth highest, but our drug use rate of 6.3 percent, same as Pennsylvania. Except their admission rate is 26 out of 100,000. Drug laws: They don't make sense!

Metropolitan Correctional Facility by e.q.