Chicago Drug Tests Public Housing Inhabitants in Gentrified Areas, ACLU Pushes Back

The Chicago Housing Agency jumped on the drug-testing-for-public-benefits band wagon this summer with a push for mandatory drug testing for all adults living in public housing.  When the public pushed back with a march in opposition, they dropped the policy, but continued to implement it for residents who live in mixed-income, or gentrifying, neighborhoods.  

According to the Huffington Post:

The tests have had a dire impact on public housing residents found to be in possession of drugs. According to the Chicago Reporter, in total, 76 percent of all one-strike evictions in 2010 were a result of misdemeanor charges being filed against a public housing resident, as compared to 40 percent only five years before. The arrests have disproportionately involved black teens and men living in Chicago's 2nd and 27th wards, two areas of the city that are quickly gentrifying.

Myra King, chair of CHA's Central Advisory Council of tenant leaders, said in May the original proposal was a "slap in the face."

"CHA says they're doing this plan to make us privy to the same standards as any other citizen in any other community," King said. "If that's true, why are we the only citizens to be drug tested?"

According to WBEZ, the ACLU  sent a letter to Charles Woodyard, the CHA's CEO, stating that the drug testing  inhabitants of CHA housing without suspicion "violates federal and state constitutional guarantees of freedom of unreasonable searches and seizures." And it is not even effective.

From the Huffington Post:

The ACLU claims that data from CHA on how many of their public housing residents have tested positive for drug use backs up that claim. As WBEZ reports, of some 1,600 adult public housing residents living in mixed-income developments, only 51 have tested positive in the last several years.

The fight against drug testing for public benefits has only just begun. More than two dozen states are considering implementing the gross violation of civil liberties for recipients of government assistance programs like welfare and food stamps. Apparently, poor drug users, unable to afford treatment, are not worthy of food or shelter, but prison. 

AlterNet / By Kristen Gwynne

Posted at November 23, 2011, 9:37am

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