Another Life Needlessly Lost to COVID-19 at Cook County Jail

 In General

William Sobczyk has become the seventh person to die from COVID-19 while in the custody of Cook County Jail (CCJ). Prior to being hospitalized, Mr. Sobczyk was incarcerated in the Cermak Health Center inside the jail, where he was being treated for advanced cancer that had spread throughout his liver, lung, bones, and brain. Mr. Sobczyk had been detained without bond while awaiting trial since 2018. Like the six people before him, his death was entirely avoidable and completely unacceptable.

Mr. Sobczyk was actually due to have an emergency bond hearing today due to his poor health. While we want to ensure that as many people as possible are released, we are also concerned that release of people who have already contracted COVID-19 because they were in Cook County Jail is artificially reducing reports of the virus’ impact. If the Sheriff’s Office is only reporting the numbers of people who are hospitalized or who have died while still in custody, many people who are released while hospitalized or who die after their bond reviews may go unrecognized as casualties of Cook County Jail. Releases must continue, and at the same time, data reported from the Sheriff’s Office must include information about people who, after release, tested positive for COVID-19, were newly or remained hospitalized, or died.

Because social distancing is impossible in jail, people must be released before they are exposed and at grave risk of getting sick and potentially losing their lives. Cook County continues to act too slowly, murdering the people in its care and custody.

Through our work supporting a class action lawsuit filed by Loevy & Loevy, MacArthur Justice Center and Civil Rights Corps, CCBF volunteers have spoken to hundreds of people currently incarcerated in Cook County Jail. Every day, they tell us that the jail remains a health hazard where soap is not readily available, social distancing is impossible, and testing and other health care access is not adequately accessible. 

As of today, more than 500 people incarcerated in the jail have tested positive for COVID-19. Many more are sick and have not received tests or treatment. More than 4,000 people remain incarcerated in the jail, and more people are being admitted every day. The situation at Cook County Jail is nothing short of a human rights crisis. If Cook County doesn’t take unprecedented action, more lives will be needlessly lost. 

Please sign and share this petition calling on the Cook County State’s Attorney to take further action to decarcerate Cook County Jail. Then continue to call and email Cook County’s Chief Judge, State’s Attorney, and Sheriff to demand a mass release.

Click here to see the Decarcerate Now: Virtual Quilt created by For the People Artists Collective in memory of the people who lost their lives to COVID-19 while in Cook County Jail.

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