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ACLU-Illinois Sues Chicago Over Public Housing Drug Tests

The ACLU of Illinois Thursday filed a class-action lawsuit against the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) over its policy requiring drug testing of residents in mixed-income developments. The ACLU charges in US District Court that the CHA's policy of suspicionless drug testing violates the Fourth Amendment's proscription on unreasonable searches and seizures.

Lawsuit plaintiff Robert Peery (aclu-il.org)
A positive drug test would lead to the eviction of the resident.

The CHA instituted the mixed-income residence drug testing program as part of its "Plan for Transformation," which tore down many of the city's crime-ridden high-rise housing developments and replaced them with mixed-income developments. Residents of the demolished low-income housing developments were given the option of moving into the new properties, but were required to take an initial drug test and be tested again every time the lease was renewed.

"Through the CHA's mixed-income program, public housing families reside in housing that is new, privately-owned and privately operated, alongside market-rate and affordable renters. One of the requirements of renters is that they follow property rules," CHA spokeswoman Wendy Parks said in a statement Wednesday. "And if those rules happen to include drug testing, then public housing families -- like their market-rate and affordable renter neighbors -- must adhere to those rules."

The suit, filed on behalf of lead plaintiff Joseph Peery, is seeking a temporary injunction to block drug testing and a permanent ban on the practice. It also asks that the CHA be ordered to pay plaintiffs' legal fees.

"Mr. Peery repeatedly has taken and passed a suspicionless drug test," the lawsuit says. "Mr. Peery is a law-abiding person, and does not use illegal drugs. He strongly objects to the CHA's suspicionless drug testing. He finds it humiliating and invasive, and it makes him feel stigmatized as a presumptive criminal and drug user."

"I'm required to go into the business office, urinate in a jar, then hand it to an office staffer. Anyone working in or visiting the office can watch the process," Peery said at a Wednesday press conference. "It's embarrassing. You can only imagine how the grandmothers in the developments feel. We're being singled out in public housing. It's not fair."

"This misguided policy unfairly stigmatizes Mr. Peery and CHA residents like him," said Adam Schwartz, senior staff counsel at the ACLU of Illinois. "It presumes he is guilty of illegal drug use, solely because he is a public housing resident, until he proves otherwise with a drug test."

"No one should have to suffer an invasion of their privacy -- like forced urinalysis -- in order to live in their own home," added ACLU staff attorney Karen Sheley.

Chicago, IL
United States
Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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drug testing

Most , if not all , Federal jobs , require random drug tests . This makes Federal employees angry . So they go full blast on the public . Which part of the public do they choose . The " poor " of course . All Federal employees have a close family member that uses a drug of some sort or the other . The same is true for all of " law enforcement personnel " nation wide . The judges , the prosecutors , etc ... Drug arrests are about $$$ for government employees at all levels and nothing else . Anything [ excuses ] that they tell you otherwise is a lie and/or deception . Government jobs depend on Cannabis prohibition . Cannabis prohibition is the " meat and potatoes " of the drug war . Hey , I`ll pay you $75k/yr. to go out into your community and arrest people over a Plant . Psychopaths only need apply . 

drug tests

The tests are often wrong and can cause a family to lose benefits for no reason.They should never be allowed in cases of aid for life necessities.Is a person with a drug problem less in need of life assistance?The use of these tests for strictly moral purposes can never be right.This is one aspect of society making judgments on another.The very poor are already stressed enough without the added stress of a drug test that is subject to all manner of false positives.Also,cannabis and other drugs,like benzodiazepines stay in the system for weeks and sometimes months.This kind of holier than thou additions to applications for welfare housing are racist at the root.You know that these kinds of laws are always from republican run states.That's where you get the kind of superiority complex that makes them think this is right.We now know the supreme court is complicit in racial profiling.There is also the case of everyone not on social assistance that are forced to take these drug tests to secure employment.The tests are expensive,untrustworthy,intrusive and have more often than not been deemed an infringement of privacy rights.In the case where they have been used to determine social assistance eligibility,specially for housing ,they have always cost far more than any savings due to people excluded for a positive test.Then those people are sent out into the street with no way to house their families.Families broken up for drug use usually end up badly for the children.Who were otherwise fine.Without the push from people that run these drug test labs there would be no desire to force mandatory tests on people.It's all about money.Those who have it wanting more and those who do not being further impoverished.Just because a person medicates with an illegal but less harmful substance,like cannabis.They may still be a far better neighbor than the drunk that the tests would allow in.

Well for starters any

Well for starters any minority rights shouldn't be left up to a majority vote. I mean that's kind of crazy to think about anyways. Gay Marriages only chance of being universal is from within the courts, not politics/vote. Not to mention that this would never pass within IL, maybe if only north of I80 was allowed to vote we would have a chance, but how it stands now, there is no way.

I would have no issues with

I would have no issues with these drug test requirements for government aid, but only if they are also applied to all public officials at all levels, since they are all living off our tax dollars as well. - Adam Gottbetter

In many states there are laws

In many states there are laws that prohibit employers from asking for facebook passwords. Under the same logic, I don't think it would be unreasonable to have laws prohibiting them from asking about legal drug usage. It's just a privacy issue, and the argument I would make is that employers have no right to govern what you do in your free time. They don't own your body and soul, they just pay for your time.

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