Presumed guilty | Bleader

Presumed guilty

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"You probably guessed as much," a story in today's Sun-Times begins, "but a White House study released Wednesday now confirms it—Chicago criminals really are on drugs."

In the study, conducted by the Office of National Drug Policy, 83 percent of the men tested last year after their arrest in Cook County were positive for at least one illegal drug. "Young criminals under the age of 21 have the highest percentage of drug use but are more likely to use marijuana," the Sun-Times story said, "while criminals over the age of 36 use less drugs but are much more likely to be heroin addicts, the study shows."

I don't doubt that the use of illegal drugs by criminals is high. My quarrel is with how the story leaps from "arrestees" to "criminals." Only arrestees were tested—their cases had yet to be resolved—and the study itself carefully refers to them that way (as does the Tribune story on the study). The Sun-Times story uses "arrestees" and "criminals" interchangeably. It's a trivial distinction, if the presumption of innocence is also trivial. Anyone arrested is probably guilty anyway—you probably guessed as much.

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