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Chicagoland Blacks 8 Times More Likely than Whites to be Imprisoned for Same Drug Offenses

Blacks  convicted of low-level drug possession charges in Illinois are far more likely to face prison time than whites convicted of the same offense, a state panel has concluded.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the Illinois Disproportionate Justice Impact Study Commission found that 19% of all black defendants in felony drug possession cases in 2005 received prison sentences, while only 4% of white defendants were locked up for the same offenses. The sentencing disparity was worse in Cook County, which includes Chicago, where blacks were eight times more likely to be incarcerated for the same offense as whites.

Nationwide, the use of illegal drugs is about the same for blacks and whites, at 10.1% for the former and 8.2% for the latter. The Illinois incarceration disparity , which reflects a similar story nationwide, can be explained by a number of factors, including racism. However, according to the Illinois study, economic and education differences, and especially differences in where blacks and whites buy and sell drugs, are the biggest factors behind the sentencing disparity.

Blacks are also more likely to conduct drug sales in public, increasing their likelihood of being busted. More busts lead to more prosecutions.

“It’s always disappointing to know the true facts,” Illinois state senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago) told the Sun-Times. Hunter co-chaired the panel that carried out the study.

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