Drugs and Disparity: The Racial Impact of Illinois’ Practice of Transferring Young Drug Offenders to Adult Court

Published On: April 1, 2001


This study analyzed data from state criminal justice agencies in Illinois and national corrections databases. It concludes that Illinois’ practice of automatically sending 15 and 16-year-old youth charged with drug crimes to adult court has produced one of the most racially disparate outcomes in the nation. Of the 259 youth automatically transferred to adult court from Cook County for a drug crime last year, only one was White. The study notes that the 1999 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse reports that White youth aged 12-17 are more than a third more likely to have sold drugs than African-American youth, and the National Institute of Drug Abuse survey of high school seniors for 1998/1999 shows that White students use cocaine at 7 to 8 times the rate of African American students, and heroin at 7 times the rate of African American students. Other findings of the report include that between 1986 and 1996, the number of White youth entering Illinois prisons increased by half while the number of African American youth entering prison more than tripled and that over half of the juvenile drug transfer cases had never received juvenile court services before and over one third had no previous juvenile court convictions.


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