THE PRITZKER CLEMENCY CONUNDRUM

Activists and attorneys have also implored Pritzker to use his powers of clemency, as pardons, commutations, amnesties, and reprieves are the most effective way of getting large numbers of people out of prisons as quickly as possible.

He has used these tools to a certain degree, commuting the sentences of seventeen prisoners since March 11.

In some states in which governors are vested with the same clemency powers as Illinois, governors have used their clemency powers more widely to expedite the release of prisoners from crowded prisons.

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POWERLESS

For more than three weeks, two of the housing units in the Vienna Correctional Center, a minimum-security state prison in southern Illinois, were running on generator power because of a water line leak that damaged the electrical system, according to the Illinois Department of Corrections.

The generators would frequently shut off, leaving prisoners without electricity, showers, or hot water.

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AN AMERICAN DISEASE: FOR PROFIT PRISON$

As the coronavirus cripples the economy, leaving millions unemployed and many companies on life support, big businesses that have become synonymous with the world’s largest prison system are still making money.

“It’s hard. Especially at a time like this, when you’re out of work, you’re waiting for unemployment … and you don’t have money to send,” said Keturah Bryan, who transfers hundreds of dollars each month to her 64-year-old father at a federal prison in Oklahoma.

Meanwhile, she said, prisons continue to gouge.

“You have to pay for phone calls, emails, food,” she said. “Everything.”

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KIM FOXX: Act Boldly, Act Now!

We are calling on the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office to take additional steps to dramatically lower the number of people in jail in response to COVID-19.

Specifically, the office should:

1. Decline to file new charges in cases that do not involve danger to a specific person;

2. Agree to release most people seeking bond reviews from custody without payment of money;

3. Immediately dismiss all pending misdemeanors and class 4 felony cases not involving danger to a specific person, starting with cases in which people are in jail; and

4. Cease filing violations of probation and violations of bail bonds for technical violations or reasons not involving danger to a specific person.

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MORE STORIES LIKE THIS. PLEASE AND THANK YOU.

A University of Illinois college-in-prison program created a reentry guide for those released from prison and jail during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Every year, the Education Justice Project updates one reentry guide to reflect the latest information about resources available to those released from prison and returning to Illinois communities, as well as another guide for those being deported to Central American countries following their release.

This year, however, Rebecca Ginsburg, EJP’s director, says it became clear the group needed to create a reentry guide specific to release during the coronavirus pandemic.

The group who worked on the document “interviewed people who had been released during (the COVID-19 pandemic) to understand what the particular challenges were, and they worked very hard to get the guide produced in one month,” Ginsburg says.

She says one challenge newly released people face is a lack of information about the virus.

“And the guide seeks to provide that,” Ginsburg says. “So they know, for example, why it’s so important to wash your hands regularly.”

The guide advises people released from incarceration to quarantine for 14 days before interacting with their family, and it also provides guidance for what to do if they fall ill.

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YOU’RE NOT A POET, YOU’RE A SHERIFF, MR. DART!

Dart maintains the civil rights attorneys and detainees who filed a lawsuit against him and the jail are playing “constitutional whack-a-mole.”

Secretly aimed at achieving the wholesale release of jail prisoners.

Jail officials say they are “meeting CDC guidelines” and “remain in complete compliance with the narrow preliminary injunction” that was issued by U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly.

Sarah Grady, an attorney representing the inmates who filed the lawsuit released a statement.

“We are confident that the Court’s preliminary injunction order will be affirmed on appeal. We also find it unfortunate that the Sheriff is spending limited resources on fighting the injunction, rather than taking care to comply with the order, which is designed to protect detainees’ lives.”

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SHERIFF TOM DART SLOW WALKS COVID-19 DEATH SENTENCE

“It has become apparent that plaintiffs’ counsel has been singularly focused on categorial release at all costs—arguably pursuing a political decarceration policy through misuse of the legal process in the middle of a pandemic,” attorneys for the sheriff’s office argued in a 28-page brief filed late Monday.

As of yesterday, according to the office, the virus had sickened 534 detainees and killed seven.

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STATEVILLE F-HOUSE: Where You’re F’d

After Juan Rodriguez tested positive for COVID-19 last week at Stateville Correctional Center.

He told his wife that guards moved him to a cell inside Stateville’s notorious F-House, which officials closed in 2016 citing health and safety concerns.

The water in the sink runs yellow-brown and Rodriguez was not given any cleaning supplies for the mold on the walls, his wife Dominika Rodriguez said. He used a bar of soap he had purchased at the prison commissary to clean it himself.

“COVID-19 is an upper respiratory illness, but they’re moving sick people to a cell house with mold?” Dominika Rodriguez said in an interview with Injustice Watch. “No human should be in there.”

The Illinois Department of Corrections reopened the controversial housing unit, known as the “roundhouse,” on May 5 and is now quarantining about 70 men at F-House who have either tested positive for COVID-19, are awaiting test results, or who work in the facility, according to a department spokeswoman.

Stateville is both the agency’s most crowded prison and the epicenter of its COVID-19 crisis.

The department reported that 150 inmates and 75 staff had tested positive for the virus as of Monday, more than at any other Illinois prison.

Twelve incarcerated people at Stateville have died from the virus.

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WHO GETS CALLED ESSENTIAL

Nobody calls Correctional Officers “Essential.” How convenient.

A Cook County correctional officer has died of apparent COVID-19-related complications. Officer Antoine Jones died Sunday after being diagnosed with coronavirus.

He was 51.

According to his family, Jones was a diabetic and was in the hospital for weeks battling the virus. He eventually suffered from cardiac arrest.

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THE PERCENTAGE OF BETRAYAL: Fewer Than 2%

Illinois has tested fewer than 2% of inmates for COVID-19.

Thousands have been quarantined across multiple facilities because of potential exposure and 11 have died, according to information released by the Illinois Department of Corrections.

This low level of testing has raised alarm among advocates and lawmakers.

They say it makes it difficult, if not impossible, to understand the true picture of the outbreak in Illinois prisons and respond to it appropriately. That includes taking steps to contain the outbreak and limit its spread into the communities where prisons are located, which are oftentimes rural and may have limited hospital capacity.

About 186 inmates and 160 staff members had tested positive for COVID-19 according as of Friday, according to IDOC’s website. Of those individuals, the vast majority have recovered: 119 staff and 146 inmates.

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