Racial Disproportionality in the Criminal Justice System for Drug Offenses: A State Legislative Response to the Problem

Article published in Race and Justice (January 2013, Vol. 3, No. 1, pp. 83-101). The article describes the work of the Illinois Disproportionate Justice Impact Study Commission, a nonpartisan, multidisciplinary group of policy makers, government leaders, and justice professionals that focused on understanding and alleviating the disproportionate incarceration of African Americans and Latinos in Illinois for drug law violations.

The study data were obtained from arrest records statewide and court cases in Cook County (Chicago), which were both drawn from calendar year 2005. Results showed that racial disproportionality in arrests for drug crimes is found in urban, suburban, and rural counties of the state and is more pronounced among arrestees with arrest records than among first-time arrestees. Analyses of Cook County court data showed that controlling for other variables, including criminal history, African Americans were approximately 2.2 times more likely than Whites, and Latinos were approximately 1.6 times more likely than Whites, to be prosecuted for drug offenses. Unequal outcomes in court processing compound the disparities at arrest, perpetuating a vicious cycle. The article concludes with the Commissions proposed remedies for racial disproportionality.

The article was authored by Thomas Lyons (Chicago State University), Arthur J. Lurigio (Loyola University Chicago), Lorena Roque (Loyola University Chicago), and Pamela Rodriguez (TASC, Inc.).

For more information on the project, click here.

State: Illinois
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