Decarceration Prayer Vigil and Press Conference
Updated: Jan 12
On April 10th, Faith in Place Action Fund staff joined a press conference and prayer vigil hosted by The People’s Lobby, Reclaim Chicago, and Chicago Community Bond Fund. We joined in solidarity as members from the National Nurses United at Cermak Health Services and faith community leaders demanded the accelerated decarceration of people in Cook County Jail.
Nurses were lined up (six feet apart) to speak in front of Cermak Health Services. They spoke about critical staffing issues at the jail, highlighting the lack of availability of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and proper sanitary health practices to keep staff and inmates safe. The lack of PPE available is a problem health workers nationwide are facing right now, and it is especially problematic for those working in our jail systems.
“When Cook County Jail gets overwhelmed, the whole system does,” said
Elizabeth Lalasz, a nurse from Cermak Health Services. “And, we’re here serving the most underserved in Chicago.”
With 181 inmates and 238 employees testing positive for COVID-19 and three deaths due to COVID-19 complications, Cook County Jail is the largest on-site source for COVID-19 cases in the country. Inside the jail, inmates are in close proximity to one another and do not receive enough hand sanitizer and soap to wash their hands and maintain safe practices during the pandemic. Twenty percent of inmates are elderly, which means without immediate action, further deaths will be difficult to avoid as the virus continues to spread throughout the jail.
“Minor offenders can’t afford bail to get out.” said Rolanda Watson, another nurse from Cermak Health Services. “These folks were not sentenced to die in this jail.”
One of the faith leaders who led in prayer was Pastor Scott Onque’ of St. Luke Missionary Baptist Church and Policy Director of Faith in Place. Pastor Onque’ declared that this was not just a public health issue, but also a moral issue at hand.
“We need to decarcerate. We need to let them out and let them out now.” Pastor Onque’ said. “These folks could’ve been let out three weeks ago, but here we are now after deaths have occurred.”
If you want to learn more about this issue, check out the following petitions from other community organizations: