State Watch

Almost 300 inmates at Chicago jail test positive for coronavirus

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The Cook County Jail reports that 276 inmates tested positive for the coronavirus this week, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) said Friday, fueling fears about outbreaks among the populations in prison.

The 4,500-person Chicago suburb has the largest reported outbreak within a U.S. prison, The New York Times reported this week. In addition to the nearly 300 inmates, 115 prison staff have also tested positive for the virus.

“First and foremost, no one should be locked up if they’re not a danger to the community or a flight risk,” Lightfoot said on CNN’s “New Day.” “And certainly not because they can’t afford to pay bail.”

The Times reported that the family of a detainee who died in custody filed suit against Cook County and Sheriff Tom Dart on Thursday, claiming he remained shackled while dying of the virus. 

Advocacy groups including the American Civil Liberties Union have called on prison systems to release some nonviolent inmates during the pandemic to mitigate the spread of the virus. Some states have done so, such as California, which announced last month that it planned to release 3,500 nonviolent offenders. 

Lightoot said that though the prison is under the jurisdiction of the county sheriff and not the city, she is providing guidance on “decompressing the dormlike setting.”

On Monday, Attorney General William Barr issued a memo to federal prosecutors nationwide telling them to consider coronavirus risks in matters of incarceration and bail.

Tags Chicago CNN Cook County Jail Coronavirus Lori Lightfoot The New York Times William Barr

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