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40 Year Old War on Drugs Called a Failure in IL

June 20, 2011

CHICAGO - The War on Drugs started 40 years ago this month and, while it has its defenders, some say the approach needs a major overhaul because they say it has devastated black and Latino communities.

Barbara Fair, founder of the criminal-justice reform group called My Brother's Keeper, says it's the minorities who get locked up for drugs, even though drug users come from all backgrounds.

"The research has shown that whites use and sell drugs at the same rate as African Americans and Latinos."

Illinois ranks first in disparity between blacks and whites incarcerated for drugs, according to
a study by Roosevelt University.

At a recent rally in downtown Chicago marking 40 years of the drugs war, Cook County Board president Tony Preckwinkle called that war a failure and urged investing in treatment, education and job training instead.

Preckwinkle pointed out that most of the Cook County inmates are black or brown.

Barbara Fair questions the motivation behind the war on drugs.

"But when you look at who's in prison behind the war on drugs, it's disproportionately African Americans and Latinos, so you have to start questioning, 'Well, what is this war really about?'"

The Roosevelt University study found that an African American or Latino man was eight times more likely to be jailed than a white man for the same drug offense.

The Roosevelt University study is at www.illinoisdrugpolicy.org


Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - IL