Uplifting story fuels challenge to Congressman Bobby Rush

Uplifting story fuels challenge to Congressman Bobby Rush
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Uplifting story fuels challenge to Congressman Bobby Rush

A woman who was jailed for nonviolent prescription drug offenses years ago after being seriously injured when hit by a drunk driver, is challenging Congressman Bobby Rush in the March 17 Illinois Democratic Primary election for Congress in the 1st District.

By Ray Hanania

A woman who was jailed for nonviolent prescription drug offenses years ago after being seriously injured when hit by a drunk driver, is challenging Congressman Bobby Rush in the March 17 Illinois Democratic Primary election for Congress in the 1st District.

Sarah Gad, 32, is fighting to change a system she said “is designed to marginalize people” and to “rectify miscarriages of justice.” Gad is a third-year law student at the prestigious University of Chicago Law School. Her road to law school was unconventional, saying her legal education “began in a jail cell in the Cook County jail.”

After a near-fatal car accident that left her in a two-week coma, with multiple broken bones, unable to walk or speak, she became addicted to prescription painkillers. Her addiction landed her in the Cook County Jail, where she says she observed and experienced countless human rights and constitutional violations.  

Sarah Gad has one of the most uplifting stories, rising from tragedy when she was struck by a drunk driver to prescription drug addiction, to championing help for those in need and running for Congress int he 1st Congressional District against Bobby Rush

Sarah Gad has one of the most uplifting stories, rising from tragedy when she was struck by a drunk driver to prescription drug addiction, to championing help for those in need and running for Congress int he 1st Congressional District against Bobby Rush

“My story is by no means unique. I talk about it openly now because I want to help break the stigma that accompanies both addiction and criminalization of this disease, and because I want to shine a light on a broken system that is in desperate need of reform,” Gad said.

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“While awaiting trial, under the custody of the justice system, I was sexually assaulted. When I reported it, I was labeled as a snitch. I became a target for beatings every day. When I was released, I had to have reconstructive surgery on my face.”

Gad, who is Egyptian American, said the trauma of being incarcerated made her addiction even more difficult to overcome. She says her life was a “revolving door in and out of jail” between 2013-2015. She was arrested in July of 2015 and spent five days in jail. She overdosed on the day she was released.

“It was that overdose that saved me. It wasn’t until I overdosed that I finally got the help I needed to overcome this disease,” Gad explained. 

“Addiction is a disease that does not discriminate. I found myself unable to get up out of bed without using. I felt like my personality and my brain were hijacked by these prescription drugs. I was injured and then given drugs that I became addicted to, and then went into jail with an addiction and left jail with an addiction, until that overdose.”

Listen to a recent interview with Sarah Gad by radio and podcast host Ray Hanania, or click this link to listen online.



Gad said she was in her third year of medical school when she was struck by the drunk driver and her life changed.

“I ended up doing more jail time than the driver who hit me. I was punished more severely than he was because non-violent drug offenses are treated as felonies and in a DUI conviction your first offense is treated as a misdemeanor with no jail time,” Gad said.

For a long time, Gad struggled to get back on her feet. She was left homeless and unemployed because of her record. She got a second chance when prominent attorney Kathleen Zellner offered her a temporary research position at her law firm that became permanent.

Gad began as a researcher for medical malpractice cases, but her role evolved to the law firm’s full time Forensics Director, where she was tasked with doing scientific testing for civil rights and wrongful convictions cases.

“When I started working for Zellner, I witnessed egregious miscarriages of justice,” said Gad who is now in her third year of Law School at the prestigious University of Chicago,” she told the Arab News.

“I couldn’t believe these miscarriages of justice were tolerated under the law. I decided to apply for law school to push for criminal justice reform and fix the deficiencies in our criminal justice that I experienced firsthand, but also witnessed through my work at Ms. Zellner’s law firm.”

She noted, “People become addicted to prescription drugs when they have to deal with excessive pain from traumatic injuries, and no one really does anything to help those victims.”

Gad founded and sits on the board of two successful Chicago-based nonprofits where her philanthropic work has attracted national attention. In 2019, Gad was awarded the University of Chicago Humanitarian Award for her service work and contributions to the South Side and Hyde Park communities.

“I am someone who has personally experienced many of the hardships I seek to eliminate, and this is why I am pushing so hard for change. I know what it is like to be homeless in Chicago in the middle of January. I know what it is like to be stigmatized by our system and feel hopeless.” she said.

Gad is running against Bobby Rush, who has held the congressional seat since 1993. She says she was approached to run for office by people in her community because of Rush’s high absenteeism both in the District and in Congress.

“First, I went to Washington D.C. to familiarize myself with the process and to see if I could be an effective leader in that setting,” Gad said.

According to public data, Rush, who founded the militant has the worst absentee record of any Illinois member of Congress and ranks 10th worst national out of 434 Congress members.

“I joined the Legislative Affairs team with the Drug Policy Alliance in Washington D.C. to support their effort for drug policy and reform,” Gad said.

“I had the opportunity to sit in and participate in dozens of congressional hearings, and over the course of three-and-a-half months, I didn’t see Bobby Rush once. He didn’t even show up to hearings that were hosted by his own committees.”

Gad said she was very alarmed when Bobby Rush failed to show up at a hearing about Bill H.R.40 on Proposals for Reparations.

“Our district has the highest population of American descendants of slaves, and we have severe economic imbalances that have been perpetuated since slavery and Jim Crow days and exacerbated by Tough on Crime policies,” says Gad.

“No District in the country could stand to benefit more from reparations than ours, and Bobby should have been there letting the committee know that.”

After her time in D.C., she felt both confident about capably representing the district, but also obligated.

“On many occasions, I found that I was the one speaking up on behalf of our district because no one else was. It really was a wake-up call. We don’t have a voice right now,” Gad said.

If elected, Gad would be the nation’s first formerly incarcerated woman ever elected to U.S. Congress.

For more information on Sarah Gad at SarahGad2020.com.

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