Prison Pandemic

Since mid-March, people incarcerated in Illinois prisons have been on lockdown, locked in a cell for 23.5 hours a day.

COVID-19 guidelines are not being followed by prison staff, COVID-19 is still spreading, people are still dying.

On Tuesday, December 15th at 11am, the End IL Prison Lockdown Coalition will hold space outside of the Thompson Center, urging Governor Pritzker to immediately address the crisis of COVID-19 in Illinois prisons.

#WhereAreYouPritzker

9 Demands

  1. Expand Yard Time To 2-3 Times A Week For At Least 2 Hours Each Time
  2. Grant Physical Access To Legal Materials In The Law Libraries Weekly
  3. Grant Physical Movement To Commissary Twice A Month
  4. Follow State Safety Guidelines For COVID19 In All Of The Illinois Department Of Corrections
  5. Stop Moving People Around When They Are Stable With Their Current Cellmates
  6. Respect Free Speech Rights And Do Not Censor Or Delay Mail
  7. Increase Access To Mental Health Resources
  8. Increase Access To Phone Calls, Video Visits And In Person Visits When Health Officials Deem It Safe
  9. Set A Rational Timeline Based On State Safety Guidelines To End The Lockdown

#EndILPrisonLockDowns

Press Conference

Join us for a month of action this holiday season to demand that Gov Pritzker take immediate action to stop COVID deaths in his prisons.

Ten months into the pandemic, thousands of prisoners across the state remain in full lockdown, which does nothing to protect them against the virus which sweeps through bars and devastates hundreds at a time.

This Wednesday is our first event, a virtual press conference.

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Hunger Strike At Vienna Prison

1. Release on medical furlough anyone with physical conditions making them vulnerable to death by COVID until such time as authorities deem the threat from the virus is over. Illinois abolished the death penalty: no one should be given a death sentence by Covid-19.

2.  Restore the 180 days earned discretionary credits of Good Time where eligible.

3. Release anyone over 55 with less than a year on their sentence.

4. Release anyone within three months of their sentence completion.

5. All releases should have the least restrictive conditions possible, so as to allow those released to be able to seek medical attention and contribute to family finances.

6. Provide testing for all prisoners who want to be tested, and regularly test all staff. Combine this with robust contact tracing, when anyone tests positive. Make the test results public, including number of tests, number  of positive/negative/pending, and deaths.

7. Stop quarantining sick people in solitary confinement cells, and house them in a setting such as the health care unit where they can be observed and receive any needed medical  treatment on a timely basis.

8. Close down prisons, like Vienna, that can no longer be run as a safe institution.

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They Are Burying Us Alive In Prison By Raul Dorado

There are many ways to come to prison.

You could have been raised in a segregated high-rise ghetto, removed from mainstream society and cut off from participation in the legal economy. Or you could just have been born black.

If you inhabit a black body, you’re nearly six times more likely than whites to be imprisoned, and if you reside in a brown body, you’re three times more likely to be imprisoned.

Covid-19 came to Stateville, undetected, in the bodies of the prison guards who have direct custody of us.

Prisons are long-term care facilities, but without the actual care. Just over four decades ago, Illinois fell in line behind a national trend to abandon the goal of rehabilitation in favor of punitive sentencing practices.

These practices lay the foundation of today’s overcrowded prisons that have not spared the elderly prisoner population bearing the brunt of Covid-19.

Our group is supporting a bill in the Illinois legislature, SB3233: Earned Discretionary Release.

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Raul Dorado Is An Incarcerated Writer & Co-Founder Of Parole Illinois

We Join The Chorus Urging Governor Pritzker To Ease Housing Based Restrictions

A coalition of 50 local and national criminal justice reform organizations, led by the Chicago 400 Alliance, is calling on Gov. JB Pritzker to ease conviction-based housing restrictions for the duration of the pandemic.

The move would allow people who have completed their sentences to finally leave prison.

“We’ve been working on this issue for years,” said alliance coordinator Laurie Jo Reynolds, “but now it’s a matter of life and death.”

Criminal justice reform organizations are calling on Gov. Pritzker to ease conviction-based housing restrictions so hundreds of people can finally be released.

She is hoping the governor will issue an executive order.

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No One Should Have To Die In Prison By Joseph Dole

Every year people die in the custody of Illinois Department of Corrections, the vast majority due in part to overincarceration.

COVID-19 is highlighting this fact because it is attacking the elderly and infirm, many of whom have spent decades enduring harsh prison conditions. They die lonely deaths for no other reason than incarceration politics, and in a vain attempt to satiate the insatiable appetite some people have for revenge.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker and others have recently voiced support for early releases of “non-violent offenders,” and insinuate that this shows they still consider public safety as the main priority. Not only is this insufficient to address mass incarceration, but if public safety is the main priority, then they should have no problem releasing “violent offenders.”

That’s because people convicted of violent offenses have lower recidivism rates and even a lower likelihood of committing violence if released.

The thousands of people currently serving long sentences are doing so due to racism, fear-mongering, dehumanization, political exploitation, and the false promise that harsher sentences are needed to deter crime.

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Joseph Dole Is An Incarcerated Writer, Co-Founder & Policy Director Of Parole Illinois

 

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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