Rest in Power, Trumell Holmes
Late last month, another life was lost in Cook County Jail. On May 21, 2020, Trumell K. Holmes died at the age of 31 while caged inside the jail.
Mr. Holmes was originally incarcerated while awaiting trial in January 2020 on a $5,000 D-bond that he was unable to pay, forcing his indefinite jailing. In April 2020, his bond was reduced to $10,000 I-bond with Sheriff’s electronic monitoring (EM). The I-bond meant he could be released from Cook County Jail without payment of any money, but it required he have somewhere to stay on EM. Unfortunately, Mr. Holmes could not access housing that met the courts’ requirements, so he remained incarcerated in Cook County Jail until his death the following month.
In ordering first the unaffordable money bond and later the EM that resulted in Mr. Holmes’ ongoing incarceration, judges did not have to justify his detention while presumed innocent. Both the money bond and the EM order appeared on paper to be release decisions that would allow Mr. Holmes to access his pretrial liberty. In reality, though, they were detention orders that ultimately took his life without due process or even a transparent acknowledgement of the court’s decision to jail him.
The Cook County medical examiner’s office ruled Mr. Holmes’ death a suicide due to the circumstances in which he was found. Mr. Holmes’ family, however, has raised suspicions about this cause of death. His aunt Diane Gardner cited Mr. Holmes’ personal interactions with his sisters and brother, saying she suspects Holmes may have been murdered. The Cook County Sheriff’s office reports that it is conducting an investigation surrounding Mr. Holmes’ death with the Illinois State Police Public Integrity Taskforce.
The story of Mr. Holmes’ incarceration and resultant death is just one demonstration of the systemic violence at work in Cook County Jail and jails across the country. Pretrial incarceration via new e-carceration technologies such as electronic monitoring provide no source of healing for anyone involved. They neither enabled Mr. Holmes to grow personally or provided a robust institutional system for care for his alleged victim. Instead, the criminal punishment system led to more violence and trauma. Pretrial incarceration killed Mr. Holmes.
Mr. Holmes’ family, including his aunt and siblings, survive him, and they are deeply hurt by this terrible loss. We mourn alongside them and recommit to fighting for a world where no one else must experience their grief.