If ever there was a time to NOT go to jail in Cook County, it’s right now. New York City may be ground zero for the total number of coronavirus cases in the United States, but the Cook County Jail is currently the largest single-site cluster of COVID-19 in the country.
As of April 15, 181 inmates tested positive for Covid-19 on top of 156 inmates previously tested and recovering from the virus. Three have died thus far. On top of that, 203 Cook County Correctional Officers and 35 other jail employees tested positive for coronavirus.
WHAT’S BEING DONE?
A lawsuit filed this month in the Northern District of Illinois Federal Court sought to grant class-action status to all of the inmates currently in the Cook County Jail and requested the immediate releases of vulnerable prisoners on 8th amendment constitutional grounds. While US District Judge Michael Kennelly denied this request, he did grant a temporary restraining order requiring the jail to establish a policy for swift testing of inmates exhibiting symptoms. Under the order, the Cook County Sheriff must provide face masks to any detainee in quarantine, provide hand sanitizer & soap to inmates, and strictly enforce social distancing within the jail. In order to promote this social distancing, the order suspended the use of bullpens to hold multiple detainees awaiting entry into the jail.
Inmates are also organizing to protest against their increased risk of infection. As of April 16, 2020, groups of detainees on different tiers started refusing their food in a demand for better conditions. While not exactly a hunger-strike (inmates are eating out of commissary if available), inmates are aiming to put more pressure on Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart and the public for release from custody, or at the very least, better protection from this deadly virus. Among the demands listed in a petition forwarded to Chief Judge Timothy Evans, inmates are requesting to be released on bond, increased access to phone calls, cleaner jail conditions, and for the courts to open earlier than the scheduled May 18, 2020 tentative reopening date.
WHAT CAN YOU DO IF YOUR LOVED ONE IS IN THE COOK COUNTY JAIL?
Call they're criminal defense lawyer and if they don’t have one, hire one ASAP. The Cook County courthouse is holding expedited bond hearings to get people out of custody during the coronavirus crisis. Those eligible for this type of bond hearing are:Any inmate with an “elevated risk of contracting COVID-19”-specifically a. because of their age OR b. Because of any underlying health conditions, such as diabetes, asthma or hypertension 2. Any pregnant inmate 3. Any inmate detained on: a. Misdemeanor charges b. Non-Violent OR probation-eligible felonies i. *particularly non violent class 3 & 4 felonies 4. Any inmate who remains in jail because they are unable to pay low monetary bond 5. Any inmate recently arrested on a warrant or alleged parole violation & warrant/parole violation is not a crime of violence. 6. Any inmate serving a sentence in the Cook County Jail. 7. Any inmates who are eligible for electronic monitoring but remain in jail because they have no address/”no place to stay.”
If any of the above factors apply to your incarcerated loved one, call an attorney to look into filing a motion for an expedited bond hearing. If your loved one has an underlying medical condition making him or her particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus, make sure to gather any and all proof of such condition. Presenting this type of documentation at a hearing can be crucial in obtaining a release on bond. An attorney can determine if this hearing was held and how to present any additional relevant documentation not previously provided to the Court.
There are over 1300 confirmed coronavirus cases in US prisons and jails, with 32 total deaths. Some of these people have been convicted of crimes, while some are awaiting trial & presumed as innocent as anyone else. And while our system of justice has always involved locking people away, even at times killing them, it has never sentenced anyone to death by an untreatable virus. Prisons and jails are adapting daily to handle this unprecedented situation. And while public defenders are working to get people out of custody, good luck getting them on the phone to discuss your loved one’s situation. At Robert Callahan & Associates, our Chicago criminal defense attorneys are always available 24/7 to discuss your loved one’s cases and coronavirus concerns. Call us at 312 322 9000 to discuss their situation right away. We’re here to help.