Pubdate: Thu, 20 Jun 2002
Source: Chicago Sun-Times (IL)
Copyright: 2002 The Sun-Times Co.
Author: Dennis Anthony Kass


I am troubled by the latest article that details drug enforcement agencies' 
new policies toward suburban drug users ["City targets heroin buyers coming 
from the suburbs," June 13]. Last year, these agencies would send a letter 
to the parents of suburban teens who were seen buying drugs in Chicago. The 
letter simply informed parents that their car was seen in a high-drug area 
of Chicago.

In contrast, Chicago teens were arrested and sent to juvenile detention 
centers or prison. This unfair policy exists despite the fact that, as 
chief of narcotics for the state's attorney's office William O'Brien 
describes, "We have a huge problem with heroin on the West Side, and the 
bulk of those people are suburbanites."

Under the new policy, suburban teens may have their cars impounded and 
their licenses suspended. O'Brien claims, "Taking away their driving 
privileges may resonate more with them than the threat of jail."

Is this a joke? First of all, why do the wealthier and predominantly white 
middle class suburban drug addicts receive such treatment? Second, why are 
the lower-income and working-class minority and white drug users from 
Chicago thrown in jail at alarming rates for the same crimes?

I find it hard to believe that drug enforcement officials really believe 
that suspended licenses will better deter suburban youth from buying drugs. 
I'm sure that receiving the five-year sentences that urban kids receive for 
buying drugs will cause many suburban drug users to reconsider the nature 
of their relationship with illegal narcotics. Their experiences in prison 
would further deter them.

At minimum, drug enforcement agencies should give Chicago's youth the same 
optimistic opportunities to not be caught up in the tidal wave of drug 
incarceration policy. In essence, I wonder why the consequence for urban 
drug users is a lengthy stay at a Downstate prison, while the consequence 
for suburban drug users is a lengthy stay at a Downstate university (but 
with a suspended driver's license).

Dennis Anthony Kass,

Albany Park
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