Prisoners say the jail, which has seen more than 800 confirmed cases, is a death trap plagued by sanitary issues and a lack of testing. Their testimonies stand at stark odds with the sheriff’s office, which says it is keeping staff and detainees as safe as possible.
The Cook County Jail in Chicago, America’s largest single-site pretrial detention facility, is now one of the top coronavirus hot spots in the nation.
Despite an April 9 order from a federal judge requiring Sheriff Tom Dart to provide COVID-19 testing for symptomatic prisoners, implement social distancing, and distribute adequate sanitation and personal hygienic supplies, more than two dozen detainees interviewed by attorneys, advocates, and reporters in the last two weeks describe living conditions conducive to the spread of the virus and a lack of access to testing.
On Monday, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly issued a preliminary injunction ordering the sheriff to do more.
To date, the sheriff’s office has reported more than 800 confirmed cases of the virus, more than half of them among prisoners. So far, six prisoners and one guard have died of COVID-19.