Cook County public defenders want "vulnerable people" detained at the Cook County Jail released in an effort to "protect their health" during the coronavirus pandemic.
The group of public defenders filed an emergency petition seeking the release of several groups of people currently at the jail who are vulnerable to infection.
Among them are older people or those with underlying health conditions - who are considered at higher risk of COVID-19 - any pregnant women, those being confined on misdemeanor charges, those being held on felony charges which are probationable or non-violent, those who could be out on bail but can't afford it, those confined over an arrest warrant or probation violation but who did not commit a violent crime, and those serving sentences who are eligible for release.
The group is not alone in their efforts as faith leaders across the city have made similar calls.
The Cook County Sheriff's office announced Sunday that a correctional officer at the jail tested positive for coronavirus.
The officer most recently worked in the jail’s Residential Treatment Unit, the wing for inmates who need medical or mental health attention, and Cermak Hospital, the on-site medical center, Cook County Sheriff’s spokesman Matt Walberg said. The officer is now in isolation at home.
The sheriff’s office has contacted employees who may have had contact with the officer and advised a “small number of staff” to self-quarantine for 14 days, though none have shown symptoms, the sheriff’s office said.
As of Sunday, no inmates have tested positive for COVID-19, Walberg said.
Last week, the jail received court orders to release about 100 “highly vulnerable” inmates who were deemed to be at high-risk for contracting the virus. The decision came after Sheriff Tom Dart banned all visitors from the jail, and Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans suspended most civil and criminal cases for 30 days.
Coronavirus has become a “get out of jail" card for hundreds of low-level inmates across the country, and even hard-timers are seeking their freedom with the argument that it's not a matter of if but when the deadly illness sweeps through tightly packed populations behind bars.