IL Repeat Drunk Driving Case Issue: Does Jail, Treatment Work?


Repeat drunken driver Leslie Thurow walked out of Chicago’s Cook County Jail last week with orders to stay off the roads and report to probation. Yesterday, says the Chicago Tribune, she was back in jail again, this time without bail after being accused of disregarding the judge’s orders within 48 hours of receiving them and wreaking havoc on a stretch of a freeway on Saturday afternoon. Thurow’s history shows the struggles authorities face in keeping chronic drunken drivers off the roads. Her release last week came after she had spent more than three months in jail for another drunken driving crash in May. Police say it was her third drunken crash in nine months, and one area chief expressed frustration with a judicial system that he said is too lenient on repeat offenders. Even adding treatment to the punishment may not be enough, the record indicates.

Court documents trace Thurow’s drunken driving to 2008, and authorities indicate she received treatment for alcohol abuse during her most recent stint in jail before last week’s release. “You can’t control what people are going to do,” said Rita Kreslin of the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists. “You keep throwing them in jail and, OK, it gets them off the road … (but) it doesn’t solve the problem. Getting them treatment is definitely the answer.” The crashes Saturday may be Thurow’s most harrowing. Thurow, 59, allegedly was driving drunk when she struck Illinois State Trooper Michael Cokins, 28, who was conducting a traffic stop on the northbound shoulder of I-294. She continued on the tollway and struck a retaining wall. She then drove about 2 miles along the interstate, hitting an SUV with seven occupants, including a 3-year-old boy, causing the SUV to flip. Thurow’s car struck a median. By the time it came to a rest, her vehicle had spun 180 degrees and was facing south.

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