More than 150 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in Cook County Jail. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said the situation poses the “biggest health problem in the county.”
Cook County Jail
Nearly 40 detainees have so far tested positive for the virus at Cook County Jail. Officials on Friday discussed those rapidly changing circumstances and said they’re working to “safely” reduce the detainee population.
By Wednesday evening, 17 detainees had tested positive
The number of Cook County Jail detainees who have tested positive for COVID-19 nearly tripled between Wednesday morning and evening, according to the sheriff’s office, which has now tested 50 individuals who have begun exhibiting flu-like symptoms.
Among those most vulnerable to the coronavirus are jail and prison populations, where people live in tight quarters, with potentially limited health care and access to basic needs like soap.
The two detainees, ages 18 and 42, each began exhibiting flu-like symptoms last Friday. They are each being held in isolation at the jail’s Cermak Hospital, officials said Monday.
A correctional officer who works in the Cook County Jail has tested positive for COVID-19, prompting additional calls for the mass release of some detainees by activists who want to prevent an outbreak within the jail.
“Everyone deserves to be protected, especially during these uncertain times, and we are obligated to ensure all members of our community feel safe, including those behind bars,” said Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx.
Sheriff’s Department looking to release some nonviolent, low-level detainees
The Sheriff’s Department says it has placed a “high priority” on reducing the number of nonviolent, low-level offenders in its custody, particularly those who are at an increased risk of the new coronavirus.
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Leticia Ruiz says the Cook County sheriff failed to protect her son from a reputed gang member who allegedly beat him to death inside the jail earlier this month, and that the “vicious and violent” beating was avoidable.
A small group of detainees are learning how to make biodiesel fuel from reclaimed cooking oil. Hundreds of gallons have so far been produced – and thousands of dollars saved – but officials also tout the program’s rehabilitative value.
Behind barbed wire fences, Cook County Jail inmates grow vegetables, flowers, herbs, and – as of May – they’re harvesting honey from two beehives provided by a former inmate.
Last year, about 5,400 detainees at Cook County Jail received treatment for opioid use – an average of 375-400 each month. The county will be able to expand its services for opioid use disorder, thanks to a new grant.
“Doing what was done to these kids is just not something you’re supposed to do to kids in a juvenile detention setting,” an attorney for the juveniles said Monday.
The suspended Chicago police officer, who was convicted last week in the shooting death of Laquan McDonald, is being sent to Rock Island County Jail nearly three hours away.
Cook County Jail officials say the Chicago cop recently convicted of second-degree murder is being housed in a single cell and closely monitored for his safety and security.