Advocates call for release of Stateville Correctional Center inmates at high risk of contracting COVID-19

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Saturday, May 2, 2020
State Rep. LaShawn Ford and others advocate for inmate safety, jails have become COVID-19 hotspots
State Rep. LaShawn Ford and others advocate for inmate safety, jails have become COVID-19 hotspots

CREST HILL, Ill. (WLS) -- Some Illinois jails have been designated as hot spots for COVID-19.

State Rep. LaShawn Ford was among a group of people who went to Stateville Correctional Center to advocate for staff and inmates on Saturday.

The group not only brought supplies in support of prison staff, but also called for the release of inmates at higher risk of contracting COVID-19.

Christina Borizov said her convicted son's life sentence at Stateville Correctional Center may as well be a death sentence because of COVID-19.

"He has severe diabetes. He has shortness of breathe. His kidneys failed a couple years ago," she said

The woman and other relatives of the inmates, along with advocates, were joined Saturday by Ford outside the Illinois prison to call for the release of prisoners with a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and better treatment of the jailed.

There is no social distancing in prison.

"It's the state's responsibility to protect the people who are locked up from dying from something like COVID-19," Ford said.

The group also donated dozens of cases of water for prisoners, along with 400 masks for prison staff.

Supporters say overcrowding and lack of access to basic hygiene products make jails and prisons especially susceptible to the spread of COVID-19, particularly for those with underlying health issues.

"We got phone calls that the inmate population wasn't allowed to take showers, they weren't being given cleaning supplies. They didn't have masks," said Mark Carter, an advocate.

So far, Stateville officials have confirmed that of the 1,400 at the Joliet-area prison - which was built to house just over 1,200 inmates - 122 have contracted the virus and 11 have died.

"Every offender here receives a mask weekly. We're handing out cleaning supplies and soap for personal hygiene. It's a matter of creating a stable environment so we can mitigate the fear," said Stateville Warden David Gomez.

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More than 100 of the prison's staff have tested positive for COVID-19, but most have recovered.

A spokesperson for the Illinois Department of Corrections said that inmates at high risk for COVID-19 will be evaluated. Some prisoners have already been released, but the governor has not said how many.

The group is also planning to tour Illinois prisons as they push for improved conditions for inmates.