Cook County Jail


* Last week I mentioned that I thought we were nearing some sort of tipping point when it came to the decriminalization of marijuana, with a great deal of media attention focused on the expense of possession arrests and racial disparities in possession enforcement. Now the Sun-Times is kicking off a four-part series. The first part will be pretty familiar if you've been following the coverage; tomorrow's has the most interest for me, since it's about how marijuana gets to Chicago and who controls it.

* The series is right on time; tomorrow Danny Solis introduces legislation to City Council that would knock possession down to a low-level ticketable offense.

* The Tribune is in the midst of an excellent series by David Jackson and veteran investigative reporter Gary Marx about the many, many holes in the system that allow suspects in violent crimes to flee the country. They are many, from a nest of international treaties to legal exemptions for family members who aid fugitives. Among the many problems cited:

Sally Daly, spokeswoman for the Cook County state's attorney's office, said: "It is extremely frustrating for us when offenders flee the jurisdiction. But our obligation is to prosecute, not hunt down these offenders. As an agency with extremely limited resources, we feel we are doing the best job we possibly can."

Tracking down offenders costs money:

County officials can be overwhelmed by the complex paperwork and the costs of translators, outside counsel and even airline tickets for sheriffs and returning fugitives.

Which might provide further leverage for Solis's ordinance, given the substantial tab for marijuana prosecutions:

It costs about $2,500 just to open a case, according to the Chicago Appleseed Fund for Justice, a legal research organization. That includes the expense of court clerks, judges, and running the system.

* John Paul Stevens reviews The Collapse of American Criminal Justice:

First, he persuasively argues that putting more police officers on city streets is a policy move that should reduce both crime and the number of prisoners. By deterring crime with broader, more certain enforcement rather than heavy punishments for the few most easily caught, this policy would respond both to the problem of excessive penal severity and to the twin effects of systemic racial discrimination—excessive enforcement against black offenders and inadequate protection of black victims.

The explanation for America's two major crime waves is also pretty compelling.

* Bill Cellini: guilty on two of four counts.


Photograph: blipsman (CC by 2.0)