Story at a glance

  • One of the largest clusters of cases in the United States is connected to Cook County Jail. 
  • Artist G Herbo and the Alliance for Safety and Justice are donating masks to the jail to help stop the spread of COVID-19. 
  • Prisons and jails have been major hotspots for the spread of the coronavirus. 

Nearly 1,000 coronavirus cases have been connected to Cook County Jail in Chicago — one of the largest jails in the country — according to data from the New York Times. Six inmates have died from COVID-19, including Nickolas Lee, whose relative is a producer for rapper G Herbo. 


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Spurred to action, Chicago-native G Herbo is partnering with the Alliance for Safety and Justice to donate 20,000 protective masks to the jail system. 

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“Our communities have been hurt by COVID-19 at a higher level than others, and our health needs to be a priority,” said Herbert Randall Wright III, whose stage name is G Herbo, in a release. “I’m thankful to partner with Alliance for Safety and Justice to help protect people in Cook County Jail who remain at greater risk during this pandemic. Families and communities need to be safe from Coronavirus, and we’re hoping to do a small part with this donation and even more with the #StopTheSpread Action Plan.”

Jails and prisons are some of the biggest coronavirus hotspots in the country, housing high-risk populations in close quarters with sometimes inadequate preventative resources. Of the 10 largest coronavirus clusters in the country, six of them are tied to jails, prisons or correctional facilities. Cook County Jail is seventh on that list, with 987 confirmed cases. 


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“The conditions in jails and prisons are ripe for spreading coronavirus within them and into communities. There have been important efforts to reduce the population at Cook County Jail, yet we wanted to provide support to protect people inside of the facility while also recognizing there is more to be done. There are ways to safely reduce incarceration that are critical to prevent any further spread of COVID-19,” said Robert Rooks, co-founder and CEO of Alliance for Safety and Justice, in a release. 

On April 27, a federal judge ordered additional testing and social distancing measures at the jail, including banning "bullpens" for new inmates waiting to be processed, double-inmate cells and group housing in most cases. The order also called for regular sanitization of common areas and masks for all detainees that are under quarantine.

G Herbo has previously worked with campaigns raising awareness about the challenges that incarcerated people face both in and out of prison. 

Cassandra Greer, Lee's wife, said she hopes to increase awareness for the needs of prisoners and other detainees. 

In a release, she said, “If we work together, we can save lives.”


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Published on May 15, 2020