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COOK COUNTY, Ill. – Dozens rallied outside Cook County Jail Sunday, demanding more transparency and accountability over living conditions inside the facility.

The group “Live Free” wants an independent monitoring committee to regularly inspect the jail.

They say the pandemic only worsened already inhumane conditions.

The jail saw one of the worse prison outbreaks in the country in early December when just under 400 detainees tested positive for the coronavirus.

Ten have died thus far.

Activists say its time for public reports on conditions inside the jail.

“We’re not doing enough and the only way we’re going to help hold our system accountable is if the people have direct access to the conditions and the makeup of this structure,” said 1st District Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson.

Last Spring, the jail reduced its population and moved detainees into single cells.

A study by Yale and Stanford Universities found that the measures implemented by the jail staff “prevented thousands of COVID-19 infections, hundreds of hospitalizations and dozens of deaths in just the first three months of the outbreak, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said in a release on March 25.”

About 1,500 tests at Cook County Jail are conducted per week, the statement added.

WGN reached out to the Cook County Sheriff’s Press Office for additional comment. Press Secretary Matt Walberg replied:

These activists are either incredibly misinformed or are willfully ignoring the facts. Since the first positive case, the Sheriff’s Office has provided daily updates regarding the number of cases at the Jail as well as routine updates, both online and through the media, about the myriad efforts it has made to combat the virus. The Office has also worked with researchers and public health experts to review its efforts, leading the CDC to conclude that the Jail is a national model for how to mitigate COVID, and prompting researchers from Yale and Stanford universities to conclude that these efforts prevented thousands of cases, hundreds of hospitalizations, and dozens more deaths in just the first three months of the outbreak. Furthermore, there has never once been a shortage of PPE, sanitation and disinfectant supplies, or hygiene products for detainees. Currently, of the 5,600 individuals in custody, just 10 are positive for COVID, and all of them were positive when they entered the Jail. As we have said from the beginning, protecting the health and safety of our staff and those ordered into custody is our highest priority.


Matt Walberg, Press Secretary, Cook County Sheriff’s Press Office

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