Testimony from Inside Cook County Jail about the Conditions & Needs of Incarcerated People

On Thursday, April 2, 2020, CCBF received this voice recording of a call with a person currently incarcerated in Cook County Jail. We were asked to share this with the world anonymously so that the testimony of people inside could be heard directly from them. The recording and transcript are unedited.

We the pretrial detainees at the Cook County Jail are contacting you due to the drastic matter at hand, the COVID-19 virus, and your protest for us out here on Monday in front of the Cook County. [Referencing this prayer vigil by faith leaders.] We choose to contact you through our loved one via email because it’s the fastest way and without our words being withheld or altered. But first and foremost, we the pretrial detainees would like to thank you and your organization for the efforts, you continue speak for those who are not allowed [to] have a voice, to protest this inhumane treatment and danger Cook County Jail is forcing us to be exposed to.

I apologize, but I am going to get straight to the point. 

We want you to know that to speak upon the media, social media, courts, and world, it is inhumane to have human beings incarcerated and away from their loved ones while such a contagious life threatening violent epidemic is continuing to spread throughout the world and within this jail. Every human life matters—no matter the seriousness of the case he or she is accused of because of the constitutional law. Honestly, we are all innocent until proven guilty. But most of all, the serious cases where grand jury indicted, meaning, there was not enough evidence to prove probable cause at an actual preliminary hearing, and most are truly, arrested by CPD’s unconstitutional methods by investigative alerts, which violates citizens rights, and most of all the 4th and  14th amendment of the constitutional warrant process, which is an illegal method which has incarcerated mass amounts of individuals who are truly innocent.  

Cook County Jail has stopped all medical treatment, including dental, and we have no access to health care. It’s inhumane and causes unnecessary pain and suffering. These officers and staff are not being checked for COVID-19 by tests on the way into the jail for each of their shifts into this jail, which we come in contact with everyday, by force, whether by opening our cell, or passing and working the food trays, which goes through so many officers’ and inmates’ hands on the way to each division and then to a mass amount of inmates who have no choice but to eat what’s given. There is no telling what these officers and their families come into contact with, and which inevitably ends up in here amongst us who are forced to be near them. Just because there are no symptoms does not mean they are not carriers, and [there’s] no telling what they touched, breathed, coughed, or sneezed on, and who else has touched and breathed the same bacteria, the germs. The virus which continues to spread.

Citizens and suspects being booked into the county jail are not being tested  for COVID-19, because there are no symptoms. Anyone can be a carrier, which brings into the county jail from what they breathe, cough, sneeze, and touch. This is then brought amongst the jail population by who walk by, who they are handcuffed to, who they are forced to live with on the deck, on the tier. Most of us are forced to live in a cell with an individual who nobody knows if they are truly infected.

Cook County Jail’s air ventilation is circulated with all the same air throughout the building, even if a sick officer or inmate is in front of our cell, we are still breathing the same air, which the virus is airborne. Cook County Jail has not been handing out hand soap or hand sanitizer, The bathroom, shower area has no soap to wash hands. The showers are moldy, dirty, and moist and humid, where bacteria can live longer and spread faster. Commissary workers have not been coming to work to deliver orders, so how can we buy food, soap, and necessities in the future? Officers and new inmates have already brought the virus into different divisions and parts of the jail. Division 4 which is continuing to spread, and please note, the news only states six inmates have the virus confirmed and been tested, but 24 are awaiting results. How can the first six inmates  be tested with immediate results but yet Cook County Jail is withholding the results of twenty four others. [Note that the current number of people incarcerated in Cook County Jail who have tested positive for COVID-19 is 167.]

Cook County Jail is reopening divisions and buildings that were shut down due to them being condemned, [with] inhumane and unsanitary living conditions, but yet are good enough to house new inmates, which blatantly violates their rights. The condemned are divisions 4, 2, 1, and 5. Cook County Jail and the court system are violating pretrial detainee’s inmates’ rights to due process, speedy trial, and the right to defend ourselves by not allowing us to continue to fight for our freedom by stopping our court dates and court proceedings, trials, and motions. Cook County Jail and courts have been known to make inmates wait for extreme amounts of time, between 2 and 8 years before going to trial.

And also, Division 4, which is a full working division, has been placed on lockdown due to inmates being infected with COVID-19, so the whole division has been contaminated as well as the kitchen, which means that all the trays that have been sent to each division. This has jeopardized each inmate’s health and well-being. This is truly inhumane, and cruel and unusual punishment by Cook County Jail, jeopardizing our lives every day. And also, who knows if their kitchen has already been thoroughly cleaned, up to code? Who is actually doing the cleaning and how many  will contaminate themselves in the process? How long will Cook County Jail [unintelligible] it again?  

Message from CCBF:
We must keep calling on Cook County’s Chief Judge, Sheriff & State’s Attorney to release people from Cook County Jail to protect public health during the #COVID_19 pandemic.

If thousands are not released, lives will be lost.

Script & contact info: http://chicagobond.org/call-in

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