CHICAGO — Two detainees at the Cook County Jail have tested positive for COVID-19 Monday, according to the sheriff’s office.
They are being held in isolation cells in the jail’s Cermak Health Services, where they have been housed since exhibiting flu-like symptoms on March 20.
One detainee, a 42-year-old man, has been in custody since late December 2019 when he was held on a $250,000 D-bond on charges of Aggravated DUI. The second detainee, an 18-year-old man, has been in custody since mid-February 2020 after he was ordered held without bail on charges of aggravated discharge of a firearm.
On Sunday, the sheriff’s office announced a Cook County correctional officer tested positive for COVID-19. He was working in Cermak Health Services, and is now in home isolation.
Cook County Public Defender Amy Campanelli went before a judge Monday to argue that the outbreak is putting inmates at risk. She wants a mass release of several hundred inmates.
Judge Leroy Martin gave Campanelli most of the things she wanted. Campenelli told Judge Martin that jails are confined spaces with more air circulation, and inmates are restricted in their movements. She compared the jail to a cruise ship or a nursing home, saying once the virus gets in it will spread “like a wildfire.”
The jail currently holds 5,600 inmates. They include hundreds charged with non-violent offenses, who have underlying health conditions.
Instead of a mass release, the judge agreed to have teams of judges look at cases brought to them by the public defender and state’s attorney’s office. The judges will then decide if the inmate is a danger to the community, and whether that person can be released.
“These are brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, children. They should not be locked up because they don’t need to be locked up. They don’t need to be behind the walls,” Campanelli said. “It took us eight days to get 100 people out. That’s too slow. That’s not enough. We need 400 or 500 people a day until we can depopulate the jail.”
Campanelli said up to 2,000 inmates could be released.