Pubdate: Thu, 30 Sep 2004
Source: Chicago Sun-Times (IL)
Copyright: 2004 The Sun-Times Co.
Author: James E. Gierach


Regarding the 2004-2005 Cook County budget and the request for 200
additional correction officers: If Sheriff Michael Sheahan appears
before the Cook County Board of Commissioners, President John Stroger
might want to ask him, "What percentage of all new arrestees arriving
at the Cook County jail are there for so-called drug offenses? I
believe the answer is 90 percent. Ask him, "What percent are [in for]
weed?" Needless to say, the drug war continues to transform America
into a land of prisons and jails. Of course, inmates are
disproportionately youngsters of minority status who often live in

Illinois, Cook County, Chicago and our nation -- we all desperately
need an end to drug prohibition. It causes more harm than good. We can
all agree the drug war must end, but it will take some discussion to
decide what reasonable drug policy should replace prohibition. But the
time has come for that serious dialogue.

Suppose the Cook County Board passed an ordinance making drugs a
county violation, then Cook County sheriff officers could start
issuing "P-Tickets" and collecting fines from marijuana offenders
rather than arresting them. Suburban municipalities could follow suit.
Gov. Blagojevich may also be amenable to solutions that reduce our
statewide dependence on prisons for drug offenders.

I continue to believe there is no better place than the home of Al
Capone to start drug policy reform to regain control of drugs, our
streets, our kids and the Cook County budget.

James E. Gierach

Oak Lawn 
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