The Illinois Disproportionate Justice Impact Study Commission released their findings this week in a study of the drug related crimes and resulting sentences across the state. And what they found reiterates the thoughts of many in the system and in the public at large, that oftentimes racial minorities are subject to harsher penalties when confronted with criminal charges.
Among their findings, the fact that 19% of blacks arrested for Class 4 drug felonies are sentenced to prison. The number is 4% for whites.
They also found disproportionate arrest numbers. In 62 out of 102 Illinois counties, there were a disproportionate number of minority arrests when compared with their population in the general public. What will be done with this information remains to be seen.
The commission itself suggests more drug treatment and other incarceration alternatives for drug offenders, reducing the number of incarcerated drug convicts overall and thereby reducing disparities.
There are many theories as to why the numbers aren’t more equal across the board. Poverty and the lack of quality education among the poor may have something to do with it. Also, disproportionate arrests increase the likelihood of disproportionate convictions, and incarcerations.
The president of the Treatment Alternative for Safe Communities believes minorities may be accepting plea agreements that involve prison time instead of getting plea bargains with incarceration alternatives. Their acceptance of these agreements could be, at least in part, due to a lack of knowledge of all of the options out there.
So, what’s the solution? That’s not a question that can be easily answered. Community programs to prevent crime in the first place are a novel idea that not too many lawmakers seem to be concerned with. Ensuring all defendants are educated about their options and given equal opportunities for incarceration alternatives would help as well.
Incarceration numbers need to be brought down across the board and providing alternatives to prison, especially in the case of drug offenses, is a good place to start. Part of taking advantage of the alternative sentencing options already in place comes from being informed about all of your options when facing criminal charges.
A criminal defense attorney can look at your case, the charges you are facing, and your criminal history, and provide you will some of the available options you may qualify for. Whether you are facing drug or theft charges, or even something as serious as a domestic battery, we may be able to help.
Contact our offices today for a free consultation on your case.