Cook County Jail looks to reduce population as precaution amid coronavirus concerns: Sheriff's office

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Wednesday, March 18, 2020

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Non-violent, low level offender inmates at the Cook County jail may soon be released in an effort to help prevent the coronavirus from infecting the facility.

The Cook County Sheriff's Office is working in tandem with the state's attorney's office and county public defender to identify potential populations the could be considered for release, according to the sheriff's office.

The facility is looking to reduce the population numbers at the jail. They are also considering to release those who may be at an increased risk due to age or medical condition.

"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," according to a release by the sheriff's office.

The Department of Corrections (DOC) staff is also contacting outside jurisdictions for inmates who are held on warrants for non-violent offenses to ask them that the warrant be "quashed and recalled pr geographically limited" so that the detainee can be released.

There are approximately 5,600 detainees in DOC custody, according to the sheriff's office.

RELATED: Social visits at Cook County Jail suspended amid coronavirus concerns

All social visits for detainees at Cook County Jail have been suspended until further notice, Sheriff Tom Dart announced Saturday. The jail said it's working on ways for detainees to communicate with their loved ones by phone.

Since January 24, all incoming detainees have been screened for flu-like symptoms, and officials have since added a series of additional measures, such as suspending social visits and limiting visitors to essential volunteers, to reduce the opportunity for the virus to enter the jail. They have also increased their cleaning regiments throughout all areas of the jail and are educating inmates about preventative hygiene and urging them to report the presence of COVID-19 symptoms before being transferred to general population.

There are currently no known cases of the novel coronavirus in the Department of Corrections, the release said.

Attorneys and clergy members will be able to visit detainees but will be screened by staff for symptoms of COVID-19, officials said. Staff who show flu-like symptoms must be medically cleared before returning to work.