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17 detainees at Cook County Jail contract COVID-19

Four correctional officers have also tested positive for the virus at the Southwest Side jail, as well as two court staff members.

Cook County Jail
There are now 17 cases of COVID-19 in detainees at Cook County Jail, Sheriff Dart announced March 25, 2020.
Sun-Times file photo

Seventeen detainees at the Cook County Jail have tested positive for COVID-19 amid calls to release as many detainees as possible to stem the spread of the deadly virus.

As of Wednesday evening, four correctional officers and 17 detainees have tested positive for the virus, according to Cook County sheriff’s office spokeswoman Sophia Ansari.

The first two cases of COVID-19 were announced Monday at the Southwest Side jail complex that currently houses about 5,400 detainees. The sheriff’s office on Tuesday had announced three confirmed cases, with tests pending for another two dozen inmates.

Chief Judge Timothy Evans on Wednesday also announced that two court staffers, an Adult Probation Department employee who worked on the lower level of the Leighton Criminal Courthouse and an Office of the Chief Judge employee working on the 23rd floor of the Daley Center, had tested positive as well. Both employees had last reported to work March 13.

Population behind the walls of the sprawling jail complex Wednesday morning was 5,306 — 121 fewer in custody than at the start of the week. On Tuesday, prosecutors and defense attorneys began court-ordered bond reviews targeting low-risk detainees for release to trim the headcount at the jail to stem the spread of the new coronavirus.

The Cook County public defender’s office has called for more than 1,000 detainees to be released, but only about 100 had been released by Tuesday.