Health and Safety

Filed - April 3, 2020

Mays v. Dart

An emergency class action lawsuit has been filed against Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart, asking for the immediate release of medically vulnerable people in the Cook County Jail in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.

The lawsuit was filed by the Chicago Community Bond Fund, Loevy & Loevy, Civil Rights Corps  and the MacArthur Justice Center. It comes after weeks of organizing following the release of an open letter to Cook County officials endorsed by more than 100 community, policy, and legal organizations demanding the mass release of people from Cook County Jail in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.



The lawsuit also challenges the current conditions of the Cook County Jail, alleging that the jail is unable to provide access to basic hygiene to mitigate the spread of COVID-19–including means for frequent hand washing with soap and water and the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

A primary focus of the MacArthur Justice Center during this time will be ensuring the health and safety of those detained in jails and prisons. Please see our efforts HERE.


Source: Injustice Watch



Doctors at the jail’s health center estimate that the actual rate of infection is three to four times higher.

The infection rate inside the jail is 40 times the overall rate in Cook County.

About Our Clients

Anthony Mays is 38 years old and currently detained in the Cook County Jail.


Mr. Mays lives in Division 8, Tier 3F, a congregate living space with about 40 beds, two feet apart, per tier. His tier is very crowded and new detainees continue to arrive. Trash hasn’t been removed in two days.

Mr. Mays is sick. He has diabetes and was previously referred our for evaluation of a heart condition. Since the outbreak of Covid-19, he has no way of seeking any sort of healthcare; sick call slips have been removed.

Mr. Mays does not feel safe.

Until recently, I resided in Division 2, Dorm 4...There were 350 to 400 people housed there with me. We spent all day in this room. The bunks were approximately 1 foot apart...It was impossible to socially distance or be separate from other people...We received one small bar of soap per week. We did not receive additional hygiene or cleaning supplies. I did not receive personal protective equipment...Other detainees asked for masks but were denied.

Mr. Brandon Mathis is 26 years old, detained on a $40,000 D he cannot afford to pay. 


Mr. Mathis is extremely medically vulnerable to Covid-19. He had his throat reconstructed after being shot — making it hard for him to breathe. He had open heart surgery as a child. He suffers from blood clots and swelling in his feet but is not receiving medication.

He resides in Division 11, where social distancing is impossible. Detainees share a shower room, which has not been sanitized. All detainees remain close together when in the common room, day room or on the phones.

Mr. Mathis is living in a cell with another cellmate. The cell has not been cleaned. He has not been given soap, hand sanitizer or any personal protection equipment.

Two men in his area tested positive — they were removed. Mr. Mathis does not know what happened to them.

Mr. Mathis has started to exhibit symptoms — he has not been tested for Covid-19.


When the city when on lockdown, the food changed. There were several days when we only received bread and not longer got milk with dinner. There were three tables in the dayroom, with five or six people sitting at each table...If you can to eat during the second shift, the food would have been sitting out for awhile.

Rafael Ortiz is 33 years old and currently detained on a $40,000 D Bond he cannot afford to pay.


Mr. Ortiz lives in a dorm setting in which all people sleep on cots in close quarters. There is a shared bathroom and shower. A man who slept across from him tested positive and was removed.

Despite suffering nose bleeds and having difficulty breathing, Mr. Ortiz has not been tested.

Medical Experts Agree

The jail was built with security in mind not medical isolation or quarantine…These conditions create a high risk of transmission to both staff and other inmates, particularly because many individuals are in proximity to non-infected detainees. Increasingly it is becoming difficult to separate suspect and infected persons from the uninfected and therefore infections will rise.

Declaration of Medical Professionals

Timeline: Covid-19 & Cook County Jail

  • Cook County Jail Begins Vaccinating Detainees — 

    Cook County Jail started vaccinating its detainees.

    February 3, 2021
  • Seventh Circuit Opinion Issued — 

    The Seventh Circuit issues an opinion.

    September 3, 2020
  • Sheriff Tom Dart Appeals Injunction Outlining COVID-19 Remedies — 

    Sheriff Thomas Dart filed a notice of appeal, asking the Seventh Circuit Court to release his office from a preliminary injunction ordered in the lawsuit.

    May 11, 2020
  • Federal Court Orders Social Distancing at Cook County Jail and Continued Protections for Incarcerated People During Pandemic — 

    Judge Matthew Kennelly ordered Sheriff Thomas Dart to implement social distancing measures for people incarcerated in Cook County Jail. With few exceptions, the order dictates that people incarcerated in the jail can no longer be housed in the same cell with another person and that most dormitory housing must be stopped.

    April 27, 2020
  • Federal Court Affirms Government’s Responsibility to Protect Pretrial Detainees — 

    Judge Kennelly ordered Sheriff Thomas Dart to implement additional social distancing and sanitary measures as part of his constitutional obligation to protect pretrial detainees in his custody.

    April 9, 2020
  • Covid-19 Positive Detainee Population Doubles — 

    In the course of a few days, the population of Covid-19 positive detainees more than doubles, reaching 210. The rate of infection within in the jail is now 40 times the overall rate in Cook County.



    April 3, 2020
  • Testimony from Inside Cook County Jail — 

    The Chicago Community Bond Fund received a voice recording of a call with a person currently detained in Cook County Jail detailing the lack of sufficient or consistent preventative measures to address the spread of Covid-19.


    April 2, 2020
  • Covid-19 Positive Cases Hits 100 — 

    In less than one week, over 100 new cases of Covid-19 have appeared amongst detainees.

    March 29, 2020
  • Cook County Public Defender Goes to Court — 

    Cook County Public Defender Amy Campanelli appeared in court to argue for the release of those detained populations most vulnerable to COVID-19. After hearing arguments, Cook County Criminal Court Chief Judge LeRoy Martin, entered an order requiring criminal legal stakeholders to move forward with expedited bond review and increased frequency of bond hearings in order to reduce the jail population.

    First Covid-19 cases within the jail are made public: two detainees and one correctional staffer.

    March 23, 2020
  • Cook County Public Defender Files Emergency Petition — 

    Cook County Public Defender Amy Campanelli’s filed an emergency petition to have detainees (including those with medical conditions, pregnant women, non-violent offenders, and those who are eligible for probation) immediately released from jail because of the risk of the coronavirus infection. The MacArthur Justice Center is one of the 25+ organizations that submitted an amicus brief in support.

    March 20, 2020
  • Open Letter to Sheriff Tom Dart — 

    The Chicago Community Bond Fund submitted open letter – signed by a coalition of 100+ advocates, organizations and attorneys – to Cook County warning of the dangers of COVID-19 within a detention environment. The letter calls for the immediate release of those awaiting trial are being held only because they can’t afford a money bond.

    At the time, there were no known positive cases of Covid-19 among jail detainees or staff.

    March 13, 2020