Drugs

Low-level drug offenders in Chicago to get treatment, not jail under new county policy

  • Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez speaks at a news conference Monday, April 20, 2015, in Chicago  announcing her office will no longer prosecute most misdemeanor marijuana possession cases, saying what prosecutors are doing now "is simply not working." She says the count is spending too much money and time cycling offenders in and out of the system and offenders charged with a low-level marijuana felony will be routed to an alternative prosecution program. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

    Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez speaks at a news conference Monday, April 20, 2015, in Chicago announcing her office will no longer prosecute most misdemeanor marijuana possession cases, saying what prosecutors are doing now "is simply not working." She says the count is spending too much money and time cycling offenders in and out of the system and offenders charged with a low-level marijuana felony will be routed to an alternative prosecution program. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)  (The Associated Press)

  • Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez speaks at a news conference Monday, April 20, 2015, in Chicago  announcing her office will no longer prosecute most misdemeanor marijuana possession cases, saying what prosecutors are doing now "is simply not working." She says the count is spending too much money and time cycling offenders in and out of the system and offenders charged with a low-level marijuana felony will be routed to an alternative prosecution program. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

    Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez speaks at a news conference Monday, April 20, 2015, in Chicago announcing her office will no longer prosecute most misdemeanor marijuana possession cases, saying what prosecutors are doing now "is simply not working." She says the count is spending too much money and time cycling offenders in and out of the system and offenders charged with a low-level marijuana felony will be routed to an alternative prosecution program. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)  (The Associated Press)

  • Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez speaks at a news conference Monday, April 20, 2015, in Chicago  announcing her office will no longer prosecute most misdemeanor marijuana possession cases, saying what prosecutors are doing now "is simply not working." She says the count is spending too much money and time cycling offenders in and out of the system and offenders charged with a low-level marijuana felony will be routed to an alternative prosecution program. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

    Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez speaks at a news conference Monday, April 20, 2015, in Chicago announcing her office will no longer prosecute most misdemeanor marijuana possession cases, saying what prosecutors are doing now "is simply not working." She says the count is spending too much money and time cycling offenders in and out of the system and offenders charged with a low-level marijuana felony will be routed to an alternative prosecution program. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)  (The Associated Press)

Cook County State's Attorney says her office won't prosecute most misdemeanor marijuana cases and will steer many facing felony drug charges into treatment rather than locking them up — a policy shift she says will save the county that includes Chicago the money it costs to keep offenders in jail.

Anita Alvarez said Monday she is launching the new policy because locking people up on low-level drug charges "simply isn't working."

Alvarez says offenders facing low level drug charges will be routed to treatment programs almost immediately after they are arrested. And she says that by reducing the number of days people spend in jail, those arrested may be able to keep their jobs and homes that they could otherwise lose if they're locked up.