Update on Efforts to Reduce Population at Cook County Jail and Ongoing Precautions to Prevent COVID-19

Mar 18, 2020Press Release

To date, there are no known cases of COVID-19 in the jail, but reducing the number of non-violent, low level offenders in custody – especially those at increased risk due to age or medical condition – is a high priority of the Sheriff’s Office.

The Sheriff’s Office, Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, and the Cook County Office of the Public Defender have identified potential populations for consideration of release. We will continue to work with our partners in those offices and the Office of the Chief Judge to expedite bond review hearings in order to secure the release of these populations as quickly as possible.

Department of Corrections (DOC) staff are also contacting outside jurisdictions for individuals in custody who are held on warrants for non-violent offenses, asking that the warrant be quashed and recalled or geographically limited so that the individual in custody can be released.

There are approximately 5,600 individuals in custody held in DOC custody, and the DOC is taking every available measure to protect staff and individuals in custody from the threat of COVID-19 at the Cook County Jail.

Since January 24, incoming individuals in custody have been screened for flu-like symptom. Last week, a series of additional measures – including the suspension of social visits for individuals in custody and limiting outside visitors to essential volunteers, clergy and attorneys – were implemented to reduce the opportunity for the virus to enter the jail. Additionally, all visitors to the jail must pass a screening for COVID-19 symptoms or exposure prior to entry.

Beginning last week, all incoming individuals in custody have been housed in specially designated receiving tiers where they are observed by Cermak and DOC staff for 7 days for any symptoms of COVID-19 before being transferred to general population.

Cleaning regimens have increased throughout all areas of the jail, and individuals in custody are being educated regarding preventative hygiene and are urged to report the presence of symptoms of the virus in themselves or others.

All DOC employees receive daily reminders on preventative measures recommended by the CDC and other health agencies. All DOC staff have been instructed to notify their supervisors immediately if they experience flu-like symptoms at work, and to stay home and seek medical attention if they experience them while off-duty. Staff who show flu-like symptoms must be medically cleared prior to returning to work.

The health and safety of staff, individuals in custody, and the general public continue to be the primary concern of the Sheriff’s Office.