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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Reality Winner Tests Positive For COVID-19

Former intelligence contractor and whistleblower Reality Winner has tested positive for COVID-19.

Winner is currently incarcerated in a Federal Medical Prison in Fort Worth, Texas, where an outbreak has sickened hundreds of inmates and killed at least two.

Winner is seeking compassionate release during the coronavirus pandemic, citing underlying medical conditions.

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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

1 in 6 Chicago Cases Of COVID-19 Traced To Cook County Jail

New research found nearly one in six cases of COVID-19 in Chicago and Illinois can be connected to people moving through the Cook County Jail.

At one point dubbed the “largest-known source” of coronavirus cases in the U.S.

According to a new study published 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,” said Eric Reinhart, a University of Chicago researcher who co-authored the report.

“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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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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COVID Crossroads For Prison Abolitionists

The intersection of a pandemic and a public uprising to address police brutality has created a unique moment in history—and a distinct moment for prison abolitionists.

Two arguments now entering the mainstream—that incarceration is an urgent public health crisis and that policing takes needed resources from communities—have long been argued by abolitionist organizers.

“Abolition is about fighting the prison industrial complex as a whole, because these violent systems are interlocking and feed off each other,” explained Mohamed Shehk, national media and communications director for the abolitionist organization Critical Resistance.

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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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COOK COUNTY JAIL: Death Trap

The day after her husband died on Easter Sunday, Cassandra Greer-Lee’s emotions swung from shock to pain to confusion. She wondered whether she did everything she could to save Nickolas Lee from the rapid spread of coronavirus inside Cook County Jail.

She thought of the long stream of calls she had frantically dialed over the past few weeks as Cook County Jail rapidly cemented itself as the largest-known source of coronavirus cases in the U.S.

Scrolling through her calls, the numbers ballooned from 60 to 70 to 90 to 100 to finally 132 calls made to the sheriff’s office, a jail sergeant’s desk line, the jail hospital and others to alert them to the spread of coronavirus on Lee’s tier—almost all were unanswered.

Lee was the third of seven detainees who have died after contracting the virus at Cook County Jail. Since then, almost 1,000 Cook County Jail employees and detainees have tested positive for COVID-19; two corrections officers and one court deputy have also died.

Like 98 percent of inmates at Cook County Jail, Lee was awaiting trial.

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FORGOTTEN PRISON PANDEMIC

In prison, having a cellmate you get along with is a rarity, but for Anthony Ehlers and James Scott, who have been cellmates for nearly five years at Stateville Correctional Center, they were one another’s family.

“He and I were a big odd couple to be best friends,” Ehlers, 48, wrote in a letter about Scott.

“Guys used to make fun of us. We didn’t care. I’m sure it was kind of weird, he was a short, bald, dark-skinned Black guy, and I am tall, and very white. But, we were inseparable.”

In March, when Ehlers felt body aches, a sore throat, dry cough and a loss of smell and taste, he worried he had been infected with COVID-19, and worse, that Scott would get sick too. He was right.

While Ehlers survived the virus, Scott did not.

Raul Dorado, 41, said when he first saw fellow prisoners exhibiting symptoms, the prison was not yet on lockdown.

“I noticed that many more than usual were sick,” wrote Dorado, who has been at Stateville since 2000. “Some said things like, I don’t know what the hell this is, but it’s kicking my ass!”

“I feel fragile, like a porcelain plate slipping out of a child’s hand,” wrote Dorado about his mental state. “Disposable, like a bent spork.”

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PRISON PANDEMIC: COVID-19 In Jails & Prisons

Roughly 120 fewer people were released from Illinois prisons between February and May 2020 than during the same four months last year, despite warnings from public health experts that lower prison populations are the best way to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The report notes that only one Illinois prison—Vandalia Correctional Center—is at an occupancy level that allows people to maintain a safe distance.

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