From the Desk of John McLees…

After more than a month of intense advocacy, there is increasing urgency to confront the failure of State and County officials:

  • to release large numbers of prisoners in order to mitigate the rapidly developing crisis from the spread of the Coronavirus in our prisons and jails and
  • to create minimally acceptable conditions in the jails and the prisons to protect the detainees and guards remaining inside, and their family members and others, from the spread of the virus.

Demanding Release of More Detainees from the Cook County Jail

Please consider signing this new petition asking State’s Attorney Kim Foxx to do more of what is within her power to reduce the population of the Cook County Jail by another 30 percent.  On Friday the Cook County Public Defender and the John Howard Association issued another urgent plea explaining why jail and prison populations in Cook County and in Illinois must be further reduced immediately:

Cook County Jail in particular is a death trap, the number one COVID-19 hotspot in the country according to the New York Times.  Leaving people there who could reasonably be released during this pandemic will result in the needless illness, suffering, and deaths of people in the jail’s custody, staff working inside the jail, and others in the community as our shared health care system becomes overwhelmed.

Writing To Your Cook County Commissioner Now, In Advance of Thursday’s Online Meeting of the Cook County Board

The Cook County Board of Commissioners will hold an online public meeting starting at 10:00 a.m. this Thursday morning April 23.  Discussion of the COVID-19 crisis in the Cook County Jail is on the agenda for that meeting, and the County Board must begin to take responsibility for insuring:

  • that the County maintains conditions in the Jail that will minimize the spread of the virus,
  • that the County provides adequate treatment to detainees who contract the virus, and
  • that the County provides the public with full and accurate information about the situation in the Jail, in order to meet its responsibilities to the detainees, to its employees and to the public. 

Please write to your Cook County Commissioner, if possible prior to Thursday’s meeting, to demand that the County Board take responsibility for insuring the adequacy of current and planned responses to the COVID-19 crisis in the Jail in light of the failure of Sheriff Dart to create conditions in the Jail that are needed to deal with the spread of the virus in the Jail, and his failure to report truthfully and completely on the situation in the Jail and the condition of the inmates who have acquired the virus.  We can also contribute to timely resolution of these issues by asking the County Board to agree to allow court-appointed independent monitors into the Jail, as requested by the plaintiffs in the pending U.S. Federal Court proceedings in the case of Mays vs. Dart.

For your convenience we have included below a draft of a message that you can modify and send to your County Commissioner to discuss your reasons for urging the County Board to address the COVID-19 crisis in the Jail.

You can easily send a message to your Commissioner by pressing the Forward command for this message, completing and modifying the draft message below as you like, signing it (with your address) and sending the message to your Commissioner by e-mail after deleting this introductory message from me.

If you don’t know your Commissioner’s name and e-mail address, you can find that information by:

  • entering your information and doing the search requested at the following link to identify the district number of your County Board District:

  • and then going to the following link and clicking on the picture of the Commissioner for that numbered District to find her or his contact information, including e-mail address:

You can also provide written comments prior to Thursday’s meeting on the urgent need to address the conditions in the Jail, which will be read at the meeting, and will become part of the record of the meeting, at:

In response to the request on that form for “File ID number,” you can simply include words such as “COVID-19 in the Cook County Jail” , and you should check the box for “Provide Written Comment for Information Only.”

Thursday’s online meeting of the Cook County Board is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. and will be open to the public.  You can watch the meeting at the following link:

Thank you for making your voice heard in a way that can matter to all of us, and in particular to the most vulnerable among us, in minimizing the suffering and economic loss from the current crisis.