Third Life Lost: Announcing the “Decarcerate Now: Virtual Quilt” Honoring People who Died of COVID-19 while in Cook County Custody
Chicago Community Bond Fund and For the People Artists Collective are working together to curate a virtual quilt in remembrance of each individual lost to COVID-19 while incarcerated in Cook County Jail. Cook County Jail has been identified by the New York Times as the “top hot spot” in the nation’s pandemic. View the Decarcerate Now: Virtual Quilt here.
Last night, we learned of the death of 42-year-old Nicholas Lee. He is the third person to have died of COVID-19 while in the custody of Cook County Jail (CCJ). As of Sunday, April 12th, more than 300 people incarcerated in CCJ have tested positive for COVID-19. The rate of infection has climbed to 68 out of every 1,000 people incarcerated in the jail, and there are no doubt many more people who have COVID-19 but have not been tested.
Local media coverage about people who lost their lives to COVID-19 while in Cook County custody provides little more than a repeat of their arrest reports and criminal histories. This reduces the people lost to their past convictions or pending charges. Such dehumanizing reporting ignores the fact that behind every one of these allegations is a human being. No one’s life is disposable, and no one is reducible to the worst thing they may have ever done.
We also recognize that some of the people memorialized in the Decarcerate Now: Virtual Quilt have caused harm to people in our communities, either related to or completely separate from any criminal prosecution. We in no way aim to erase that reality. CCBF recognizes survivors’ needs for safety, healing, and repair while also believing that carceral punishment and death by incarceration do not and cannot provide those things. We remain committed to supporting effective, community-based solutions to preventing and responding to sexual, domestic, and other forms of interpersonal violence in our communities.
While the national spotlight is on Cook County Jail, county officials continue to look away. We remain committed to advocating for a mass release of people from Cook County Jail to help ensure further deaths do not occur. We ask that you continue to call Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, Chief Judge Timothy Evans, State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot to demand a mass release now: chicagbond.org/call-in