UPDATE: CALL THE MAYOR’S OFFICE AND DEMAND THE CITY DROP ITS OPPOSITION TO RELEASE!
The City of Chicago has filed an amicus brief in support of keeping people incarcerated in Cook County Jail during the COVID-19 pandemic. Cook County Jail is a death trap, and leaving people incarcerated there during this pandemic will result in the needless deaths of both people in the jail’s custody and others in the community as our shared health care system becomes overwhelmed. We are urging you to call the Mayor’s Office to demand the City stop opposing the release of medically vulnerable people incarcerated in Cook County Jail. Learn more here.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot
Phone: (312) 744-3300
“Hi, my name is ______ and I live in [neighborhood]. I’m calling to demand that Mayor Lightfoot withdraw the City of Chicago’s opposition to release of people incarcerated in Cook County Jail. There is a lawsuit pending that seeks to remove medically vulnerable people from an environment where their lives are in danger and to protect public health. The City should withdraw its amicus in this lawsuit. People inside the jail are part of our community and they are not disposable!”
CALL THE COOK COUNTY STATE’S ATTORNEY’S OFFICE AND CHIEF JUDGE AND DEMAND THEY DECARCERATE IN THE NAME OF PUBLIC HEALTH!
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. In addition, the Chief Judge should ensure everyone in the Pretrial Services home confinement unit has permission to leave their homes and is not on 24 hour curfew during the pandemic.”
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. In addition, the Sheriff should loosen movement restrictions for people on electronic monitoring and improve access to phones, video “visitation,” and and make sanitation, hygiene and cleaning supplies available free of charge to anyone that remains incarcerated during the pandemic.
If they tell you they can’t help:
“We are in a moment of crisis and need all county officials to do everything in their power to keep people safe. Incarcerated people are among the most vulnerable during this pandemic, we need you to do everything in your power to meet these demands, whether that’s taking unprecedented action or working with other county stakeholders.”
WHY ARE WE DOING THIS?
People incarcerated in jail are one of the populations most vulnerable to coronavirus and COVID-19, and their protection warrants special emergency action. Jails and prisons are known to quickly spread contagious diseases. Incarcerated people have an inherently limited ability to fight the spread of infectious disease since they are confined in close quarters and unable to avoid contact with people who may have been exposed. Responses such as lock downs, placing people in solitary confinement and limiting access to visits from loved ones are punitive and ineffective responses to outbreaks. Importantly, we know that isolation further endangers people and limiting visitation also has adverse effects.
The only acceptable response to the threat of COVID-19 is decarceration. Today there are more than 5,500 people incarcerated in Cook County Jail (CCJ). Almost all of them are still awaiting trial and thus presumed innocent under the law. There are an additional 2,400 people incarcerated in their homes 24/7 under the Sheriff’s electronic monitoring (EM). In general, people on Sheriff’s EM are unable to leave their homes to go grocery shopping or buy other supplies or to attend medical appointments without hard-to-obtain written appointment confirmations. The ongoing incarceration of all these people is an unacceptable risk to every incarcerated individual as well as public health.