Two People Incarcerated in Cook County Jail Have Tested Positive for COVID-19
For over a week, we have been clear: COVID-19 would inevitably enter Cook County Jail and put thousands of lives at risk. Yesterday we learned that a guard who had been working in the Cermak Hospital and Residential Treatment Unit in the jail had tested positive. Today, we learned that two people incarcerated in the jail have tested positive for COVID-19. One of them was in the Residential Treatment Unit and the other in Division 6. This likely means that the virus is now rapidly spreading throughout the jail.
One of these individuals was incarcerated in the jail because of an unaffordable money bond. From day one, we have been saying that releasing everyone who is incarcerated in Cook County Jail due to an unpaid money bond was a priority and an easy way to reduce the number of people in the jail by approximately 1,500. If a judge has set a money bond, it means that they’ve determined the person is cleared for release pretrial; their ongoing incarceration due solely to access to money is deeply unfair and unethical, especially during this pandemic. The size of someone’s bank account shouldn’t put their life at risk.
This morning in court, the Cook County Public Defender’s Office argued for the mass release of people incarcerated in the jail. The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office argued against any form of mass release and instead pushed for individualized reviews of the more than 5,000 people currently incarcerated in the jail. This process is shamefully inadequate and entirely too slow for the crisis at hand. Working hard over the previous 10 days, the Public Defender and State’s Attorney’s Office secured the agreed release of just 100 people. At the same time, Chicago Police–some of whom have tested positive for COVID-19–have been arresting people, some of whom then later enter the jail.
With every passing moment, we come closer to the inevitable health crisis inside Cook County Jail and Cermak Hospital. Days save lives. When judges take the bench this week to hear motions for bond reviews, they won’t be making simple release or detention decisions, they’ll be deciding whether or not someone deserves the chance to survive this pandemic.
We must act now and do everything we can to push the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office and Office of the Chief Judge to support the mass release of people incarcerated in the jail. We’re asking that you continue to call and email their offices. You can find all the information you need here: chicagobond.org/call-in