The chief judge of Cook County and several
judges at Criminal Courts have decried state budget cuts in treatment
programs for addicts in the court system.
The judges say such cuts will expand populations of state prisons and the County Jail and harm the safety of the public.
the loss of the treatment option for non-violent addicts will mean
their cases will take longer to dispose of and clog the dockets,
several judges say.
"A considerable strain upon the court system will likely result,'' stated Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans in a letter sent this week to state leaders.
Evans sent his letter to Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, Illinois Senate President John J. Cullerton, and Michael J. Madigan,
speaker of the Illinois House. Evans "respectfully'' objected to cuts
in state funding for substance abuse treatment scheduled to go into
effect July 1.
"If an abrupt stop to these services occurs on
July 1,'' Evans added, "much needed support for and supervision of at
risk offenders may end, and the judiciary will be left without
alternatives for them.
"My concerns also include a possible compromising of public safety.''
Modern drug treatment programs are "an effective way of reducing recidivism,'' said Dennis J. Porter, supervising associate judge at Criminal Courts.
the treatment and rehabilitation option, many addicts who might have
been helped will resume addiction and crime to support their habits
upon release from jail or prison, said Associate Judge Marcus R. Salone.
"They will just be a burden to the courts, our budget, and ultimately the safety of the people,'' Salone said.
will be breaking into cars, stealing radios, breaking into box cars,
shoplifting — and unfortunately, having physical confrontations in
search of some funds,'' by which Salone said he meant robberies of all
Some drug treatment providers have already stopped accepting new cases.
Alternatives for Safe Communities, or TASC, which last year diverted
25,000 people from the justice system into treatment for drug and
alcohol addiction and mental illness, has "closed intake,'' said Pamela
Rodriguez, executive vice president of the organization.
"We received a letter from the [Illinois] Department of Human Services that says our funding was cut 75 percent,'' she said.
TASC told Criminal Courts judges in Cook County "to stop making referrals,'' Rodriguez said.
placed its staff on furlough until July 16 to see whether the state
legislature and the governor revisit the budget and restore funds to
TASC did say it will place names of potential clients who
are criminal defendants on a waiting list although it won't be able to
evaluate them for now.
For the present, TASC has asked the
judges to allow a continuance of at least two months for any defendant
who is put on the waiting list who is free on bond and 45 days for any
defendant who is in custody.
There will be "a snowball effect on jail crowding and disposition of cases,'' said Circuit Judge Joseph G. Kazmierski Jr. at Criminal Courts.
if the treatment option is lost, this will have "a dramatic effect on
the community at large,'' Kazmierski said, including loss of
opportunity to turn some addicts "into productive people in our
Also, if residential treatment programs for
non-violent offenders who are addicts are no longer an option,
Kazmierski said, "I may not give them probation.…They may be going to
prison.… increasing the cost to the state as a whole.''
Judges interviewed said the cost to the state of each new prison inmate was $20,000 to $22,000 a year.
"Our jails will get bigger and fuller,'' Kazmierski predicted.
Salone pointed out that under state law, 20 ILCS 301/40-5, non-violent
criminal offenders who are addicts but who are not drug dealers have
the right to "elect treatment under the supervision of a licensed
Some defendants may still insist on this right, he said, meaning their cases will be dragged out on court dockets.
eligible defendants, because of the difficulty getting into treatment
programs due to budget cuts, may elect to plead guilty, take their
punishment, then return to the streets and resume their former behavior.
of TASC said, "We're not giving up the fight.…We are hoping there will
be some improvement in that final [state] budget, maybe as soon as June