As COVID Rates Rise Again, Lives at Cook County Jail Are at Risk
Today, Cook County begins a stay-at-home advisory, and Illinois’ COVID-19 positivity rate is nearly 15%. Meanwhile, the number of people incarcerated in Cook County Jail has climbed almost back to pre-pandemic levels with nearly 5,500 people inside. CCBF first raised the alarm about the dangers of COVID-19 for people incarcerated in Cook County Jail in early March. A week later, more than 100 community, faith-based, civil rights, and labor organizations joined an open letter calling for mass release to protect public health.
Less than two months later, seven people incarcerated in the jail had died after contracting the virus and more than 500 more became infected. Community action and litigation forced the Sheriff to improve conditions inside the jail and forced the courts and State’s Attorney’s Office to dramatically reduce the number of people inside the jail.
In the last few months, however, the number of people incarcerated in the jail has quietly risen to 5,470 people, just 118 people fewer than when Illinois first shut down on March 17th. Today, we are again calling on the Cook County State’s Attorney and Chief Judge to take bold action to reduce the number of people incarcerated in Cook County Jail. We are also calling on the Sheriff Dart to reinstate the social distancing practices originally ordered by the federal court, an order which his office worked to overturn. For months now, the Sheriff’s Office has been housing multiple people in the same cell and hundreds of people in huge dormitory settings where the spread of COVID-19 is facilitated by tight conditions and the inability to social distance. In addition, guards at the jail do not wear their masks effectively and can regularly be seen entering and leaving the jail without masks and without practicing social distancing. These actions place the thousands of people inside the jail at risk in ways they cannot control, and they are unacceptable.
Please take a few minutes today to call and email the below elected officials and ask them to act now to save lives!
Call-in & Email Scripts
State’s Attorney Office
Phone: (312) 603-1880
“Hi, my name is ______ and I live in _________. I’m calling to demand that the Cook County State’s Attorney Office take steps to dramatically lower the number of people in jail in response to COVID-19. This means declining to prosecute most cases, not filing new violations of bond or probation conditions, and instructing line prosecutors to support release of people currently detained pretrial in Cook County Jail in bond hearings.”
Phone: (312) 603-6444
“Hi, my name is ______ and I live in _________. I’m calling to demand that the Cook County Sheriff’s Office take steps to dramatically lower the number of people in jail in response to COVID-19 and ensure that anyone in his custody is able to practice social distancing.”
Office of the Chief Judge
Phone: (312) 603-6000
“Hi, my name is ______ and I live in _________. I’m calling to demand that the Cook County Chief Judge take steps to dramatically lower the number of people in jail in response to COVID-19. This means facilitating bond review hearings for people currently in jail and instructing judges not to admit new people to the jail.”