The ACLU of Illinois represented Joseph Peery, a public housing resident at Parkside of Old Town, a mixed-income housing development constructed under the Chicago Housing Authority’s (CHA) “Plan for Transformation.” Mr. Peery was forced by the CHA to undergo annual, humiliating drug testing in order to maintain his residence. Mr. Peery had never used drugs. In fact, during the 1990s, he worked for a local non-profit whose goal was to dissuade youth and adults in Cabrini Green from using drugs.
In the few years leading up to the lawsuit, Mr. Peery took and passed the CHA’s suspicionless drug test four times. The test itself is humiliating and stigmatizing. Mr. Peery was forced to go to the business office in the building – where many people work and others visit – where he was handed a jar and asked to urinate into it. When he returned from the restroom, the jar was marked in plain sight of all the employees and visitors in the office.
For many years, the ACLU of Illinois has advocated against drug testing of CHA residents. We believe this stigmatizing testing violates the residents’ freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures under the U.S. and Illinois Constitutions.
In September 2014, the District Court unfortunately denied our motion for preliminary injunction, finding no state action. We appealed that ruling, but unfortunately the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against us and affirmed the district court’s decision.