|Civil Rights Groups Pressured Gov. to Protect Vuln|
Gov. Pritzker Orders Illinois Prisons Closed to New Prisoners Due to COVID-19
SPRINGFIELD - As Illinois faces 2,538 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 26 deaths, Governor Pritzker on Friday issued an order to close Illinois prisons to new prisoners in response to the pandemic.
Last week, a group of civil rights organizations, including the ACLU of Illinois and Uptown People's Law Center, signed an open letter to Governor Pritzker stating no additional prisoners should be brought into Illinois' overcrowded prisons due to the coronavirus. The letter also requested that, to protect prisoners from the virus, many people be released from prison, including those who were due to be paroled within 180 days, and anyone elderly, sick, or otherwise infirm.
"We commend Governor Pritzker for taking this powerful and necessary step that stops one path of transmission into the prisons. Unfortunately, it didn't happen until after some people in prison were already infected with COVID-19. Now we need to stop it from spreading by getting as many people as possible out of prison, starting with those most at risk of death from the virus," said Alan Mills, executive director of Uptown People's Law Center.
So far, Illinois prisons reportedly have a total of three confirmed COVID-19 cases among the populations at Stateville prison and North Lawndale Adult Transition Center, and one guard has been diagnosed from Sheridan prison.
Governor Pritzker announced criminal justice reform as a priority shortly after taking office, and has been a nationwide leader in implementing policies that address the COVID-19 pandemic. Ireland and Iran have released thousands of prisoners, and hundreds of people being held in Ohio and Los Angeles jails are being released, due to the outbreak.
"We are deeply gratified the Governor took this step. We are grateful to the Governor's legal staff for listening to what we and Lippert court monitor Dr. Raba were suggesting. The Governor's goal and ours are the same: protect the prisoners as best we can in these trying times," said Dentons senior counsel Harold Hirshman. Dentons is co-counsel with Uptown People's Law Center and ACLU of Illinois on Lippert v. Jeffreys, a class action lawsuit alleging the medical care in IDOC is unconstitutional.