Monday, August 24, 2015 08:48 AM
SPRINGFIELD – In 2010, Cook County released more than 5,000 defendants accused of drug-related crimes after determining there was no probable cause for their arrests. Many had been sitting in Cook County jail for more than 25 days awaiting their probable cause hearing. Each day these men and women sat in jail cost county taxpayers $143 – or more than $3,000 for a 25-day stay. It cost them and their families even more from lost time at work and the anguish of having a loved one in jail. Many of these offenders came from low-income families that could not afford to post bail.
Why? Because law enforcement agencies in Cook County send recovered substances to the State Crime Lab to determine whether they are in fact drugs, which takes weeks. Police in every other county use a simple field drug test that costs little more than $1, which could have dramatically reduced the cost to Cook County and the suffering of these people and their families.
The plan championed by Harmon creates a pilot program in Chicago to perform field drug tests for marijuana, cocaine and heroin. If it is successful, the field testing program could be expanded to the whole county. Establishing field drug testing in Cook County could also reduce pressure on the state crime lab, which currently analyzes all suspected drugs from the state’s most populous area.
“Cook County deserves the opportunity to save taxpayer money and reduce prison crowding,” said State Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park), the measure’s sponsor. “This program works in every other county in Illinois. I have high hopes that it will work here, cutting costs and reducing unnecessary jail time.”
The legislation is House Bill 356. It takes effect immediately.
Senator Don Harmon
President Pro Tempore
Years served: 2003 - Present
Committee assignments: Assignments (Vice-Chairperson); Executive (Chairperson); Judiciary; Committee of the Whole.
Biography: Attorney; born 1966, in Oak Park; graduated St. Ignatius High School; B.A., Knox College; J.D. and M.B.A., University of Chicago; married (wife, Teresa), has three children: Don, Frances, and Margaret.
Associated Representative(s): Kathleen Willis, Camille Y. Lilly