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Chicago Sun-Times Opinion This Week
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More than 80% of all criminal cases processed through the nation’s justice system are misdemeanors that steal hundreds of hours in law enforcement time that could be better spent investigating murders, gun crimes and other serious, violent offenses. What’s more, a new analysis of almost 15 years of crime data has found that low-level offenders who are not prosecuted are less likely to commit another crime. The study presents another good argument for dealing with nonviolent offenders in a smarter way, the Editorial Board writes.
In another editorial, we wrote about how a large number of sex offenders are being funneled into one building in Englewood, and that it needs to change. An elected official questioned its legality, and in one of our Letters to the Editor, Rebecca Janowitz and Pamela Rodriguez wrote in another valid question: Why are so many people, who have at some time in their lives committed a sexual offense, living at one address?
In Commentary, we hear from a former U.S. secretary of transportation about legislation that was passed in 2019 that enables the public sector to partner with the private sector so that we can build and grow our way out of these tough times. Ray LaHood explains why the ONE Central partnership is just what we need to show the world that Chicago and Illinois are “open for business.”
— Ismael Pérez, editorial board member

All too often, an important study has found, taking the toughest approach to prosecuting low level offenders just makes matters worse. Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times
All too often, an important study has found, taking the toughest approach to prosecuting low level offenders just makes matters worse. Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times
As a nation, America spends far too much time and money pursuing petty criminals, and we can’t see much benefit in that.
More than 80% of all criminal cases processed through the nation’s justice system are misdemeanors — a homeless person panhandling outside a coffee shop, an addict who stole $50 to feed a drug habit — that steal hundreds of hours in law enforcement time that could be better spent investigating murders, gun crimes and other serious, violent offenses.
And all too often, as an important new analysis of almost 15 years of crime data has found, taking an overly tough approach to prosecuting petty offenders just makes matters worse. Nonviolent, misdemeanor offenders who are not prosecuted are actually less likely to be arrested for another crime anytime soon.
The typical alleged misdemeanor offender, it seems, too often gets caught up in a criminal justice system that is poorly equipped to deal with poverty, poor schooling, mental illness and all the other social ills at the roots of so much crime.
Or perhaps the alleged offender loses his job because of time spent in jails and courtrooms, only to end up with a conviction or arrest record that makes it harder to find the next job.
In 185 days — the average time, according to the study, that it took to dispose of a non-violent, misdemeanor case — a lot can happen to derail a life already teetering off the tracks.
The Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board is the opinion voice of the hardest-working newspaper in America. It is headed by editorial page editor Tom McNamee and includes Thomas FrisbieLorraine ForteLee BeyIsmael Pérez and Mary Mitchell as members.
What others have to say
Ray LaHood on the ONE Central proposal:
“When our children and grandchildren look back 100 years from now, it will be the cities that were transit visionaries that will be seen as world-class. With ONE Central, Illinois can become the nation’s leader in shaping the urban landscape of tomorrow.”
ONE Central proposal for Chicago’s lakefront among the most creative ideas in a century
More editorials we published this week
Evanston takes a small but historic step forward on America’s road to reparations
Biden’s infrastructure plan offers a bridge to a better American future
In your words
“… [ex-offenders] are all in one building because too many politicians have gotten undeserved mileage out of making it nearly impossible for people who committed a sexual offense to find a place to live.”
— Rebecca Janowitz and Pamela Rodriguez, Near North Side
Every day we publish submissions from Chicago Sun-Times readers weighing in on issues facing the city and its residents. Send letters to letters@suntimes.com or reply to this email to share your perspective.
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Chicago Sun-Times Opinion This Week

A weekly overview of opinions, analysis and commentary on issues affecting Chicago, Illinois and our nation by outside contributors, Sun-Times readers and the CST Editorial Board.

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