THE JAIL CYCLE: Spreading COVID-19

New research has found that nearly one in six cases of COVID-19 in Chicago and Illinois can be connected to people moving through the Cook County Jail, which at one point was dubbed the largest-known source of coronavirus cases in the U.S.

According to a new study published Thursday in the journal Health Affairs, cycling through Cook County Jail is associated with 15.7% of all documented cases of the virus in Illinois and 15.9% in Chicago through mid-April.

“As the pandemic began, I realized this was going to be a huge driver,” Eric Reinhart, a University of Chicago researcher who co-authored the report, told WTTW.

“The jail cycle – arresting people, cycling through the jail and back into their communities – was going to be a huge driver of COVID-19 spreading to communities.”

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GOVERNOR PRITZKER CALL GOVERNOR WOLF

After collectively spending nearly 90 years in prison, Freddy Butler and Oliver Macklin will soon be heading home.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf officially commuted their sentences of life without the possibility of parole.

The men will spend at least a year in a halfway house before being released on parole.

Butler, 72, was convicted of first-degree murder in 1970. He has been incarcerated for more than 50 years. The Board of Pardons recommended his commutation.

Macklin, who is 63, was convicted of second-degree murder in 1986. He was recommended during the same session. The board must vote unanimously to recommend someone for a commutation.

Since the tough-on-crime era, the number of people serving life without the possibility of parole has ballooned.

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IN-PERSON VISITATION RESUMES AT COOK COUNTY JAIL

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart announced that in-person family visits have resumed at the Cook County Jail for the first time in nearly three months due to the continuing trend of low COVID-19 cases at the Cook County Department of Corrections.

“We have worked hard to find alternative methods to allow families to stay in touch with detainees, but nothing can replace seeing loved ones face-to-face, and that only adds to the already significant stress experienced by the families of those incarcerated,” Sheriff Dart said, in a statement. “We believe this is not only beneficial for those in our custody, but also for our staff, since it reduces anxiety among detainees.”

Visitation hours will be held from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day including weekends, weather permitting, and DOC staff expect to facilitate approximately 100 visits daily.

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THE LONG TERM

The Long Term is a hand-drawn animation developed by artists serving long term sentences.

The video uses personal narrative and research to describe the scale and impact of long term sentencing policies. The work tells the stories about the fear of dying inside, the feeling of being programmed by prison and the impact on family life, from the perspective of 11 artists serving life or long term sentences.

The Sentencing Project reports that 1 in 9 people in prison are serving life sentences, and 1 in 7 have sentences of fifty years or more.

People locked in, or headed to, maximum security prisons are marked for death-by-incarceration.

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THE BRUTALITY OF PRISON

Our prisons cannot continue to rely on deprivation, control and institutional violence to maintain order.

The failure to provide adequate treatment, programs and education is not justifiable, given the growth in prison spending in recent years as populations have declined — and given the high societal costs of recidivism.

We must re-align priorities in correctional budgets, and we must move forward with decarceration.

Prison distills all of our systemic injustices. People come there disproportionately from communities that are policed rather than resourced.

The incarcerated are housed in dismal cinder-block cells, deprived of adequate care, decent food and education, and paid pennies per hour, if they are lucky to even have a job.

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KIM FOXX TO DROP CHARGES FOR CURFEW VIOLATIONS

Step 1: Drop Erroneous Charges Against Protesters Of The George Floyd Uprising

Step 2: Apologize For Pushing Around Protesters With Impunity

Step 3: Decarcerate For The COVID-19 Prison Pandemic

Step 4: Get Behind Earned Discretionary Release

Step 5: Be Kind

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DECONSTRUCTING LWOP: Life Without Parole

We need to revisit and replace “the extended death penalty,” known officially as life without parole.

LWOP

Those who receive life sentences with parole eligibility return to prison for another violent crime at a rate of only 1.2 percent. Though LWOP inmates, by definition, cannot present any evidence of rehabilitation to a parole board, it’s reasonable to expect that ending life without parole sentences would not unleash a new murder wave.

Restoring parole eligibility to all convicted murderers would encourage inmates to keep their disciplinary records clean and to participate in educational and vocational programs to improve their chances of successful re-entry into their communities and job markets.

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STATEVILLE VOICES: A Festival Of Short Plays

In the spring of 2019, through the Northwestern Prison Education Program, playwright and Goodman Artistic Associate, Rebecca Gilman, taught playwriting at the Stateville Correctional Center.

The students embraced their first playwriting class and, for their final projects, each wrote a short play. Ranging from comic to tragic, the plays tackle subjects as unique, original, and inspiring as the men who wrote them.

Prior to the COVID-19 shutdown, we planned to offer three live performances of the Stateville Voices plays: one at the Goodman, one at Kennedy-King College and one at Stateville.

We still intend to present live readings at the Goodman and Kennedy-King once it is safe to do so. We also want to take the plays to Stateville when the prison is no longer on lockdown.

However, given that the population at Stateville has been one of the hardest hit by COVID19 in the country, we felt it was urgent to present a live virtual event featuring some of the Stateville Voices plays as well as a panel discussion looking at what life is like at Stateville at the present moment.

Live on Facebook and YouTube on Friday, July 3 at 5PM.

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