Cook County Jails: One of Largest Coronavirus Outbreaks in the Country

Cook County Jail is known for being home to one of the largest coronavirus outbreaks in the U.S.

According to an analysis of Cook County Sheriff’s Office data, as of March 18 of this year, 1,291 detainees in Cook County Jail have tested positive for COVID-19, approximately 23.3 percent of the jail’s population. Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic in Illinois, a total of 10 detainees and four correctional officers have died due to the coronavirus.

Despite the cramped, unsafe conditions of these correctional facilities, incarceration rates in Cook County have steadily increased over the summer of 2020. Incarceration rates rapidly increased between May and June.

The rise in jail population last summer can be attributed to a number of factors including Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans’s emergency court order that put court hearings on hold during the pandemic and Pritzker’s policy banning transfers from county jails to the state’s prison.

Another factor that helps retain the jail population is the unaffordability of bail bonds. About two-thirds of people in pre-trial jail or on electronic monitoring in Cook County cannot afford to pay their bail bonds, according to the Coalition of End Money Bond.

The infographic below further illustrates how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted Cook County Jails.

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