Cook County, Illinois: COVID-19 & Jails

The Cook County Jail in Chicago is being overrun by COVID-19. 

The jail has been identified as the single biggest Coronavirus hotspot in the United States. The infection rate in the jail is nearly 32 times the overall rate in the county. Six human beings have died in the jail from COVID-19.  In the past four weeks, 461people incarcerated in the jail have tested positive for COVID-19. If Sheriff’s staff are included, nearly 824 people associated with Cook County Jail have tested positive for COVID-19.

Along with the Chicago Community Bond Fund, MacArthur Justice Center, and civil rights law firm Loevy & Loevy, we filed a lawsuit against Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart. The lawsuit challenges the conditions of the Cook County Jail, alleging that the jail is unable to provide access to basic hygiene to mitigate the spread of COVID-19--including means for frequent handwashing with soap and water and the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer. 

In addition, the lawsuit asks for the immediate release of people for at highest risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19.

On April 9, a federal judge issued a Temporary Restraining Order requiring the Cook County Jail to implement additional social distancing and sanitary measures. The order required the jail to implement overdue measures including effective sanitation, social distancing at intake, rapid testing, and protective equipment for people detained in the jail. On April 27, the judge extended that order, issuing a preliminary injunction that mandated additional steps by the jail, including expanding mandatory testing and barring dangerous congregate-style dormitory housing and double cells.