Ward Room
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Preckwinkle: War on Drugs a Failure

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Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle says drug abuse should be treated as a public health issue, rather than a criminal justice issue.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle joined community and social-action groups on Friday in denouncing the war on drugs at a rally outside the James R. Thompson Center in the loop.

"We all know the war on drugs has failed. Instead it has resulted in the incarceration of millions of people around the country," said Preckwinkle.

The purpose of the rally was to call for an end to the war on drugs 40 years to the day after it was declared by then-President Richard Nixon.

Preckwinkle said she'd rather see the $150 per day it costs in detaining people in the Cook County Jail put toward treatment, education and job-skills programs.

She called for more treatment and less punishment on the campaign trail when she talked about diverting drug users into treatment programs. She said that she is currently working with the courts, prosecutors, defense attorneys and the sheriff’s office to find ways to make it happen.

Kathleen Kane-Willis, the director of Roosevelt University’s Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy, kicked off the rally by citing recent statistics indicating Illinois has a greater percentage putting African Americans behind bars for drug crimes than whites than any other state in the nation.

"For each white person incarcerated for drug offenses, eight African-American men are incarcerated," she said.

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