July Death at Cook County Jail
On July 2, 2019, 55-year-old Patrick Tullis was found dead inside his Cook County Jail cell. He was found hanging from his bunk with a bed sheet after spending one week in jail. Patrick is the third person known to have died in Cook County Jail this year.
Patrick was 55 years old at the time of his death and was being held without bond on weapons charges. Patrick’s unfortunate story affirms the dangers of pretrial incarceration. Jail is an inherently dangerous place where mental and physical health conditions go untreated, connection with loved ones is denied, and the people detained are dehumanized. Risk of death by suicide is highest in during the first week of incarceration. Like many other people around the country who are presumed innocent, Patrick’s short pretrial incarceration was deadly. Our hearts go out to his friends and family.
Last month, the media was flooded with stories arguing that more guards are needed in order to prevent deaths inside jail and prisons. This is a dangerous reactionary argument. If we want to stop the harm that occurs inside prisons, we must decarcerate. Prisons are inherently violent places, and increasing the number of guards, who are often responsible for creating exacerbating that violence, will only beget more violence. It should not require the death of a wealthy white man such as Jeffrey Epstein for the media and public at large to reckon with the violence caused by jails and prisons. The life of every incarcerated person is worthy of protection.
For more on why jails and prisons can never be safe or suicide-proof, read No One in Jail “Gets Better” on Suicide Watch by Alan Mills, CCBF Advisory Board member and Executive Director of Uptown People’s Law Center.