Across Cook County, people are uniting to care for seniors and delivering groceries and medical supplies to friends and neighbors. This public health crisis has impacted all of us.
The people who are detained in the Cook County Jail and the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center are not exempt from this impact either, and we must do what we can to protect this vulnerable population just like we have united to protect our elders and those with preexisting conditions.
Regardless of the current public health pandemic, many of the people currently detained will all be released from jail due to their pretrial status or short sentences. The only question is when: before or after they are infected with COVID-19? There are still 150 children at the JTDC awaiting trial and they all need to have access to consideration for release. Doing so is in the best interest of the whole of Cook County—every person we can spare from infection and hospitalization at this time helps our collective health system and thus the entire community.
I applaud Public Defender Amy Campanelli for her leadership in motioning the court to expedite the release of categories of pre-trial defendants who do not present a public safety risk and who themselves are at higher risk of being infected by COVID-19. The jails are not equipped to adhere to CDC recommendations that mitigate the spread of the virus. In many cases, detainees are having meals in close proximity, using the same facilities to shower without deep cleaning between use, and not provided with soap or the ability to wash their hands as frequently as needed to contain the virus.
All of the criminal justice stakeholders agree that those who pose a serious risk to public safety must remain detained and denied bond. But we must release those people who will be released soon anyway and avoid the threat this poses to detainees, correctional officers, attorneys, healthcare workers and other staff in the jail, and ultimately to every family in Cook County.