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Cook County Jail releases several detainees ‘highly vulnerable’ to coronavirus

The sheriff’s office has already released a pregnant detainee and another detainee who was hospitalized for treatment not related to the virus.

Cook County Jail near 26th Street and California Avenue.
Several detainees at-risk of contracting coronavirus have been released from Cook County Jail.
Sun-Times file photo

Cook County Jail has released several detainees deemed “highly vulnerable to” coronavirus as a global pandemic broadens its effect on society, the Cook County sheriff’s office has announced.

The sheriff’s office has secured the release of “several” detainees held on low-level, non-violent charges who are at-risk to the virus COVID-19, sheriff’s office spokeswoman Sophia Ansari said in an emailed statement.

The sheriff’s office has already released a pregnant detainee and another detainee who was hospitalized for treatment not related to the virus, Ansari said.

Although released from detention, they are expected to appear for their court dates.

“While there are no confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 in the jail, the sheriff’s office is doing everything in its power to release detainees who may be at great risk if they contract the virus,” Ansari said.

Ansari could not immediately say how may detainees were released.

The sheriff’s office also said it is asking other jurisdictions to quash warrants or limit them so those detainees with low-level offenses can be released from Cook County Jail.

The office does not have sole authority to release detainees pending their trial, but has been working with the Cook County Public Defender, the Cook County State’s Attorney and the Office of the Chief Judge, “asking them to exercise their authority to broaden the release of at-risk detainees given these extraordinary circumstances,” the sheriff’s office said.

On Sunday, Sheriff Tom Dart suspended all visits to the jail in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus. Dart also put a hold on court-ordered evictions after deputies encountered a person showing signs of COVID-19 while serving an eviction.

Last week, Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans suspended most criminal and civil trials for 30 days in the Cook County Circuit Court.

Meanwhile, Illinois state prisons suspended visits to prevent the spread of the virus among guards and inmates.

Jennifer Soble, executive of the Illinois Prison Project, has told the Sun-Times that prisons are “incredible porous regardless if visitation is suspended or not” and that it’s only a matter of time before the virus appears in prisons.

Criminal justice advocates have called on Gov. J.B. Pritzker to release elderly, disabled and medically frail inmates from state prisons before they may be affected by the new virus.