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Understanding Cook County’s Pattern of Dead-End Drug Arrests

December 8, 2021 @ 6:30 pm

In Cook County, thousands of people are arrested every year for possessing small amounts of drugs only to have their cases thrown out just days later. It’s due to an unwritten rule in the courts that costs millions of dollars in taxes and costs those getting arrested their jobs, their homes and their freedom.

A new investigation, “Dead-End Drug Arrests,” examines this pattern in Cook County. The Better Government Association and the Chicago Sun-Times found those charged with carrying less than one gram of drugs are still routinely arrested although their charges are overwhelmingly dismissed in the earliest stages of their court cases.

Join us online on Wednesday, December 8 at 6:30 p.m. for our discussion with:

  • Kathie Kane-Willis, director of research, Chicago Urban League
  • Benny Lee, founder and CEO, National Alliance for the Empowerment of the Formerly Incarcerated
  • Era Laudermilk, Chief of Staff for Cook County Public Defender’s office
  • Ben Ruddell, Director of Criminal Justice Policy, ACLU Illinois

Better Government Association investigative reporter Casey Toner will moderate the conversation with guests as they discuss the findings of the investigation, the history behind existing drug laws, the Cook County court system’s record on drug charges and the impact the Cook County criminal system has on communities. They’ll also examine what real reform could look like in Illinois.

“Dead-End Drug Arrests” is part of The Circuit, a joint project from Better Government Association and Injustice Watch, in partnership with the civic tech consulting firm DataMade. Learn more about the project here. The University of Southern California’s Annenberg Center for Health Journalism also provided financial support for the “Dead-End Drug Arrests” project through a 2021 National Fellowship.

Readers are welcome to participate in the digital discussion by submitting questions for our panel when you RSVP.

You will not need to be logged into Facebook/YouTube or have a Facebook/YouTube account to view the live stream.