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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
Alongside a coalition of civil rights organizations, we filed an amended suit in a class action case against Governor Pritzker demanding that state officials speed the release of prisoners who are highly vulnerable to COVID-19.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In less than one week, over 100 new cases of Covid-19 have appeared amongst detainees.
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.
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.
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.