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Preckwinkle: Change Drug Policies, Reduce Jail Population

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Toni Preckwinkle chairs her first Cook County Board meeting

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle chairs her first Cook County board meeting on Dec. 14, 2010 (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who has publicly labeled the nation’s War on Drugs a failure, is now trying to turn the situation into something useful.

As WBBM Newsradio 780’s John Cody reports, Preckwinkle says she is now actively working with the Cook County Public Defender, Sheriff’s office, State’s Attorney and Chief Judge on finding ways to reduce the population behind bars for drug offenses at the County Jail.

“My view – reduce it substantially,” she said. “If 70 percent of the people are there for nonviolent offenses – either accused or convicted and sentenced to time for nonviolent offenses –this isn’t the best use of our resources.”

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s John Cody reports

Preckwinkle says drugs have to start being treated as a public health problem, rather than a criminal justice issue.

Upon the 40th anniversary last week of President Richard M. Nixon’s declaration of the War on Drugs, the policy came under renewed criticism from many corners.

CBS News reported that back in 1971, the federal drug control budget was $155 million. Currently, it is more than $15 billion a year or, after inflation, 17 times higher than in 1971.

Police Supt. Garry McCarthy was among those who criticized the War on Drugs last week.

He said Friday that rather than just arresting drug dealers, police need to follow up to reduce the demand. He also said social services need to provide treatment for addicts and rebuild communities–not just throw people in jail.

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