On April 6, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed an executive order allowing “medically vulnerable” incarcerated people to be temporarily released on medical furlough for the duration of the state’s disaster proclamation.
Furloughs are typically temporary releases from prison, usually for no more than 14 days.
Pritzker’s executive order extends the order indefinitely during the pandemic; it is unclear whether people will be expected to return to prison once the pandemic is past.
For 76-year-old Pearl Tuma, who is serving a life sentence at Logan Correctional Center, the governor’s order might be the only opportunity she has to rejoin her family. Imprisoned since 1980, Tuma is one of the oldest women in Illinois’s prison system.
Now, she suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hyperlipidemia, cataracts, arthritis and a degenerative spine condition. She must use a wheelchair to get around the prison.
She has applied for clemency numerous times under several governors; each time, she has been denied.
“I am very fearful that if COVID-19 comes into this prison, there is no safe place for anyone,” wrote Tuma from prison. “Our living conditions are deplorable and unsanitary. We are 66 inmates to a wing, one ‘toilet’ area per wing. It’s our only means to wash our dishes, wash our hands or brush our teeth.”