Take action against the spread of COVID-19 throughout jails and prisons:
To Gov. Pritzker,
I want to thank you for the efforts you have already taken to prevent further spread of COVID-19 within prisons and jails throughout Illinois by initiating an executive order to stop any further intake of new prisoners through the Illinois Department of Corrections during COVID-19. I applaud your leadership in protecting the people of Illinois during this pandemic, and I’m asking for further leadership from you among Illinois inmates.
As a person of faith, good conscience, and integrity, I’m asking for you to continue to take proactive measures so that the inmate population, one of our most vulnerable populations, is protected against further spread of COVID-19.
The prison population in particular tends to be overlooked for medical treatment, and with 20 percent of the prison’s population being elderly, deaths would be difficult to avoid. I’m sure you share in my sorrow at recent events in Joliet, where inmates with COVID-19 were transferred to St. Joseph Medical Center, the closest hospital nearby. The medical director of the hospital called it a “disaster” as 9 inmates were on ventilators with more inmates needing care. The influx of inmates in already strained hospitals will continue to become a trend if action is not taken immediately.
Within detention centers, there are few, if any, precautions put in place for inmates to protect themselves against this disease. Inmates are in close contact with many people in detention centers, which creates the perfect storm for the virus to spread to the other inmates, staff and guards. As of April 1st, Cook County Jail alone reported 167 detainees tested positive for COVID-19. The numbers will continue to escalate throughout the state if no further action is taken.
I urge you to immediately implement an overall review and eventual release of all inmates who are elderly as well as inmates who have preexisting conditions that would make them more susceptible to severe COVID-19 outcomes. I’m encouraging you to provide medical furlough or compassionate releases to as many inmates as possible, as this would prevent the onslaught of COVID-19 cases and prevent further deaths from occurring. Ultimately, I would like to urge you to consider pathways to decarcerate all inmates, especially during the COVID-19 crisis, as it will continue to be to the detriment of our hospital system and to everyone in prisons and jails as cases rise and the healthy provisions needed to care to our most vulnerable communities fall short.
Thank you for your ongoing leadership amid this pandemic and for your time.