PANDEMIC BATTLEGROUND: CHICAGO RALLIES

Sharlyn Grace knew coronavirus was going to be a problem.

So on March 6—well before most of the nation was aware of the havoc the virus would wreak—Grace and her team at the Chicago Community Bond Fund (CCBF) put out their first statement calling for the decarceration of the city’s Cook County Jail, the largest single jail site in the U.S.

“We shouldn’t be giving people death sentences by carelessly exposing them to this incredibly dangerous illness,” Grace told Newsweek.

The CCBF is a largely volunteer organization that helps cover bond costs for those who can’t afford it. Grace helped found the group in 2014 during the Black Lives Matter movement and serves as its executive director.

Now, all hands are on deck to get as many people out of the jail during the pandemic. Edward Vogel, a volunteer with the group, said Grace has been working nonstop to avert a crisis that could “destabilize the health care system in Chicago.”

Jails and prisons are like a petri dish for COVID-19 and other diseases like it.

Jails in particular have an extremely high turnover rate, with people coming and going nearly every day. Access to cleaning and hygiene supplies are limited, and hand sanitizer is often considered contraband.