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Dec 6, 2021

Axios Chicago

Happy Monday! It's St. Nicholas Day! Watch out for Krampus.

💨Today's weather: Windy with a high of 33. Look out, it's gonna get cold this week.

⚾Situational awareness: After several years on the ballot, White Sox star Minnie Minoso has been elected to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame!

Today's newsletter is 937 words, a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Cost of low-level drug arrests

The Eisenhower Expressway, also known as "the heroin highway." Photo: Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

A new BGA/Sun-Times investigation looks into life-changing incarcerations of thousands for low-level drug offenses prosecutors know won't stick.

Why it matters: Under state law, drug possession cases under 15 grams — a trace of heroin or one Xanax pill — are a felony.

  • The offenders can languish behind bars for months, losing work, housing and freedom.

Startling takeaways:

  • Of the 10,480 drug possession cases from 2018, 72% were ultimately tossed out.
  • More than $100 million was spent on jailing people on low-level drug possession charges from 2013-2018.
  • The 11th police district, which represents the West Side of Chicago and its open air drug markets off the Eisenhower Expressway called "the heroin highway," has twice the drug arrests of any other district in the city.
  • A former gang member said that a West Side heroin operation could bring in $10,000 a day.

Be smart: Some in Illinois are trying to change the felony charge to a misdemeanor as it is in more than 20 states, including Oregon. A measure to do this stalled in the Illinois state senate after passing the state house this spring.

  • Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx called this "a colossal waste of time," per the BGA/Sun-Times investigation.

Between the lines: One reason the city is still classifying these charges as felonies is that low-level drug possession arrests often are based on the word of the officer and don't usually require a confession or witness testimony.

  • In the report, defense attorneys cite the power officers have to stop and search possible suspects.

Go deeper: The BGA and Injustice Watch teamed up to create The Circuit, which crunched years worth of data for this report.

  • "The consequences of these dead-end arrests can be devastating for the individuals themselves, but also their families and the entire community," BGA investigative reporter John Chase tells Axios. "Sadly, after 20 years and tens of thousands of arrests, it's still business as usual in the West Side drug markets.
  • "Drug sales and purchases continue, and people keep dying."
2. Teachers want CPS to rethink software rules

A CPS student works on a computer. Photo: Randy Belice/NBAE via Getty Images

We recently reported on a Chicago Public Schools privacy policy that blocks students from accessing software programs that their suburban peers use for art, design, computer science, math and engineering classes.

What they're saying: "I have worked hard to find resources that add educational value to my students and are free! It's sad to not allow the use of these resources that so many have used for so long," Lane Tech teacher Amy Wozniak wrote on a Change.org petition where more than 2,000 people have urged CPS to rethink its policy.

The other side: CPS officials have no plans to change their stringent interpretation of a state privacy law or join a consortium of other Illinois schools that collaboratively approve software. Instead, they continue to push software vendors to comply.

  • "We are currently working with these vendors toward a solution to restore these products and services," CPS spokesperson Sylvia Barragan tells Axios.
  • "We're determined to give each vendor agreement a thorough review in an effort to protect student privacy."
3. Tips and hot links

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

🏫 Oak Park-River Forest school officials rescind decision to cancel athletics due to COVID-19. (Chicago Tribune)

🍽 Lakeview restaurant Yoshi's Cafe announced it is closing after 39 years. (Chicago Tribune)

🎄 A Jefferson Park home sports a 20-foot spinning Christmas tree. (Block Club Chicago)

4. MMQ: Bears no match for Cardinals

Chicago Bears coach Matt Nagy during yesterday's loss. Photo: Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In the last two weeks, the Bears had the chance to compare themselves against the best and worst teams in the NFC. After a blowout loss to the NFC-leading Cardinals yesterday at Soldier Field, it's clear the Bears are closer to the worst.

  • Chicago turned the ball over four times and let Kyler Murray and the Cardinals work with a short field the entire game in a 33-22 loss.

Why it matters: The Bears dropped to 4-8 and are all but mathematically eliminated from postseason play.

MVP: Running back David Montgomery, who totaled 141 yards and scored a touchdown.

LVP: Quarterback Andy Dalton threw four interceptions, but three were either tipped or bad drops. It's the most interceptions by a Bears QB since 2016.

Play of the game: For the Bears? Oh, there weren't any. They did control time of possession, but came away with just seven first half points.

What's next: The Bears play the Packers at Lambeau Field on Sunday Night Football.

5. 12 Days of Chicago Christmas: Graziano's Kit
The J.P. Graziano Beef Kit. Photo: J.P. Graziano Grocery Co., Inc.

👋Hey, it's Justin!

Welcome to our list of locally sourced, Chicago-themed gifts. The whole collection will roll out over the coming days.

Today: The Barstool Chicago x JP Graziano Beef Kit Gift Box.

Why: There's nothing like the holidays in Chicago when you can gift a beef kit.

The price: $13 for Graziano's seasoning and world famous giardiniera, a spicy condiment of oil and vegetables. You gotta get the beef on your own.

The experience: You can trace the Graziano family business all the way back to the turn of the 20th century, when it started as a wholesale shop that sold things like imported Italian oil, spices and cheese.

  • In other words: They know what they are doing.
  • Giardiniera is a Chicago gift all by itself. Add the Italian beef seasoning and you get a true wet and spicy beef sandwich, just as the Chicago gods intended.

Be careful: Graziano's mezzo giardiniera is a mix between their varieties of hot and mild. That's something you don't see in Chicago every day.

Best for: Anyone who loves Italian beef. And even if they don't, the mezzo giardiniera is worth it alone.

Where to get it: Order online or stop by the shop at 901 W. Randolph St. in the West Loop.

📬 Tell us your favorite Chicago-themed gift recommendations by responding to this email.

👋 Monica is back tomorrow.

🅿️ Justin is fighting an erroneous parking ticket. Wish him luck.

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