Chicago’s Criminals on Drugs

A recent report lists Chicago as the city with the greatest percentage of inmates on drugs. The study was released last week by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, and it put Chicago at the top of the list for the 4th year.

The report says that 83 percent of males arrested in Cook County last year tested positive for at least one illegal drug. More than half were on marijuana, a quarter were on cocaine, one-tenth were doing opiates, and one-fifth tested positive for multiple drugs.

Authorities state that the reason for the statistic is because Chicago is a hub for drug trafficking in this country. Those who support legalization of marijuana use these conclusions as reasons to legalize marijuana. They say that we are filling our jails with people committing no crime other than smoking or possessing pot. They state that we can save the government billions of dollars if marijuana were decriminalized, and that marijuana doesn’t do any harm to users anyway.

Treatment for Inmates

Other people see a different problem from these numbers. Sheriff Tom Dart of Chicago said, “It’s assumed that most people going through here either have drugs in their system or are in withdrawal when they are booked in. We don’t take note when someone goes through withdrawal because it happens so often.” (1)

If these inmates are not receiving any treatment for their drug addiction, Chicago has a bigger problem on its hands than whether or not to legalize marijuana. Inmates who do not receive drug rehab will not be any more prepared to live a drug-free life after jail time than they were before they were arrested. “This is a trend that has been going on for decades in Chicago,” Daphne Baille, spokeswoman for the Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities, said. “We know that the vast majority of people who are arrested indeed have illicit substances in their system, and this is a result of our 40 year war on drugs that has continued to criminalize this health problem, rather than treating it.” (2)

In fact, only 1400 of the 10,000 inmates in Chicago’s jail are in a drug treatment program. This statistic shows the underlying problem that must be addressed, not only in Chicago, but in jails across the country. There are waiting lists across the country for inmates that are willing to enter drug rehab, but can’t because there just isn’t enough room or money to treat them all. It simply isn’t effective to lock someone away for a few months or a few years for doing drugs without also giving them the tools to lead a drug-free life afterwards. We need to find a way to provide treatment and training to these inmates in order to start seeing a change in our jails.


(1) Majority of Arrestees on Drugs

(2) Drug use among Chicago arrestees highest in U.S.

Study: 83 percent of Chicago arrestees test positive for drugs

Leave a Reply