From the Desk of John McLees…

We hope that you are all safe and well.

We are two months deeper into the COVID-19 crisis in our jails and prisons from the time when citizens and advocates began alerting our public officials of the need for large-scale release of detainees and prisoners from our jails and prisons in order to avoid the creation of COVID-19 hotspots that would kill prisoners and guards and create a public health crisis that would also substantially increase the number of COVID-19 deaths in the general population

The response of Cook County and Illinois state officials has not been adequate, and we are now watching the consequences unfold.

The Reports referenced in the section of the Website with “Other Sources of Ideas and Information” now include a detailed report of ACLU Analytics and University partners that attempts to quantify the impact of this failure, projecting that failure to decarcerate from jails alone will result in from 100,000 to 200,000 additional deaths from COVID-19 in the United States, three-fourths of which will occur outside the jails in the general population.  

Advocacy continues on these issues.  There is a link in the section of the website on Issue Advocacy for signing the petition that the Chicago Community Bond Fund continues to circulate, demanding that Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx do more to decarcerate the Cook County Jail in response to COVID-19.

Please also consider jumping on the short-notice opportunity to get trained tomorrow or on Saturday to engage in Court watching (from your home) to monitor bond decisions being made by Cook County judges during the COVID-19 pandemic, and responding to the short-notice opportunity to participate in the Webinars being presented by The Sentencing Project on May 14 and May 20 on Challenging Mass Incarceration During COVID-19.

But the heightened focus on decarceration and criminal justice reform needs to continue beyond the Coronavirus emergency.  So we encourage you also to read and consider some of the other resources that under Reports in the section of the website on “Other Sources of Ideas and Information”, including the Episcopal Public Policy Network Criminal Justice Series of reports on criminal justice reform, the new organizing and advocacy resource from the Community Justice Exchange and Defender Impact Initiative, and some of the many other reports listed there.