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NEWS

Short Update: Arrests for low-level crime a major driver of the spread of coronavirus in Illinois

FairTrialsAdmin - July 6, 2020 - COVID-19 Updates, prison conditions

Despite the increased spread of coronavirus in prisons and jails, authorities in Illinois arrest, book and release thousands of people charged with low-level offenses each day, thus unwittingly unleashing the virus into the outside world, a recent report on Chicago’s Cook County Jail suggests. 

Roughly one in six cases in the city of Chicago and state of Illinois were linked to people who were jailed and released from this single jail, as of April 19. The authors of the report noted that people “are arrested for low-level crimes, processed through crowded jail spaces where the risk of infection is high and then sent back to their communities, where they inadvertently spread the virus”. More than two thousand new cases appeared in their ZIP codes three to four weeks after each of those arrests and releases, with 60 % of these cases being black-majority ZIP codes.  

About 100,000 people pass through the doors of Cook County Jail every year, approximately 75% of them are black.  Before the pandemic 94% of the people booked into the Cook County jail were being charged with non-violent offences.  

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