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CHA drug policies don’t work, aren’t fair

Sun-Times Library

Sun-Times Library

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Updated: September 22, 2013 6:25AM

In an Aug. 16 editorial, the Sun-Times reluctantly concedes that the ACLU will likely win its lawsuit challenging the legality of CHA’s mandatory drug-testing policies at mixed-income developments. But the policy is not just illegal. It is unfair, discriminatory and based on preconceived and misguided notions about public housing residents.

Though the CHA deserves praise for trying to reduce the incidence of drug-related activity at its developments, the end does not justify the means in this case. The CHA and the police can target tenants whose illegal activities pose a threat to their neighbors without subjecting hundreds of innocent and law-abiding residents to demeaning and invasive drug tests year after year.

A recent ACLU report (“The War on Marijuana in Black and White”) confirms that marijuana usage rates are comparable among blacks and whites. In Illinois, however, blacks are more than eight times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession. Why? Because they are unfairly targeted. The CHA’s mandatory drug-testing policy only exacerbates this problem because it reinforces the erroneous assumption that CHA residents — all of whom are poor, and most of whom are black — use illegal drugs more frequently than other groups.

It is time to stop relying on policies that are based on such misguided preconceptions. There is no evidence that such policies are effective, and the CHA can reduce drug-related crime without them.

Lawrence Wood, LAF (formerly Legal Assistance Foundation)

Carol Steele, President of Cabrini-Green Local Advisory Council

City unfriendly to drivers

Chicago has become the most motorist-unfriendly city in America. It has high parking meter fees and bicycles everywhere, including in the middle of the street and on sidewalks. It has wheel-bending speed bumps on the side streets. It has pot holes. Add in endless road construction and red light cameras and, to add insult to injury, the city is planning to add 50 speed-trap cameras. Then you have pedestrians who walk so slowly when crossing the streets that they actually cause travel delay.

All of this has to be hurting Chicago businesses. If I were a business owner, I’d be all over my alderman, asking how are we supposed to compete?

Bill Sarto, Carpentersville

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