Drugs

On Friday, June 12th, PCG will host a conference “New Directions for Drug Policy in Illinois.” If you believe the following facts — and what might be done to address them — are important, you will surely want to attend:

  • The United States leads the world in the number — 2.3 million — and percentage of residents it holds in prison. One in every 38 individuals is involved with the criminal justice system through probation, parole, prison or jail.
  • About 78 percent of Illinois drug offenders are African-American, vastly higher than their 15 percent share of the overall population.
  • A Human Rights Watch study from 2000 found that Illinois ranked first in the country with respect to racial disparities in prison sentences for drug crimes.
  • The number of African-Americans admitted to prison in Illinois for drug offenses grew from 1,421 in 1990 to 9,088 in 2000 – a six-fold increase. During this same period, there was virtually no change in the number of whites admitted to prison.
  • This difference exists despite the fact that rates of illicit drug use vary little by ethnicity.

The causes of these facts are surely complex. But there can be little doubt that over the past 30 years the so-called “War on Drugs” helps to explain the United States as a “prison nation.”

At our conference, Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, will assess the “War on Drugs.” The head of the Drug Policy Office in Vancouver, Canada will describe the widely praised “Four Pillars” program that includes treatment as an alternative to incarceration. Rep. Jeffrion Aubry of the New York State General Assembly will outline the successful campaign to roll back the Rockefeller drug laws there.

We will bring you up-to-date on progress currently being made: today’s passage, and anticipated signature by the Governor, of HB 1289, which offers measures to reduce the recycling of individuals in and out of prison in Illinois (more than half of all those released in any given year return to prison in three years).

Conference participants will suggest avenues of additional significant change: an increase in opportunities for drug treatment, for example, as an alternative to incarceration; and sentencing laws that reverse the most punitive measures of the “War on Drugs” over the past 30 years. Our goal with this conference is to develop momentum for such change.

Please register! We look forward to seeing you on Friday, June 12th as together we explore the potential for new directions for drug policy in Illinois.

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