A federal lawsuit filed in Chicago on Thursday is calling for state officials to “drastically reduce Illinois’s prison population” in order to give hundreds of inmates that are particularly susceptible to contracting the coronavirus and more likely to die from it, a chance to survive this pandemic.
While the lawsuit seeks a class-action status to represent prisoners with underlying health conditions that make them more vulnerable to catching and dying from the disease, as well as older prisoners who are also more vulnerable and have drastically decreased survival rates of the coronavirus, the lawsuit that was filed in the U.S. District Court names 10 inmates. The lawsuit says that the Illinois prison system’s poor medical care and lack of protective measures for inmates will make the COVID-19 virus especially deadly for those who are incarcerated.
The lawsuit states, “The State is not acting with sufficient urgency, and without intervention from this Court, people are going to die unnecessarily it says… Illinois prisons are on the cusp of an outbreak, but there is still time for urgent and decisive action that can prevent harm.”
While many people who will get this novel coronavirus will only experience mild to moderate symptoms, and many people will contract the virus and be asymptomatic but able to pass it on to others, for some people, especially older adults and people with existing health issues, it will cause serious illness and for many, the likelihood of dying from it is very high.
Another key to the potential devastating damage this virus is projected to cause in the United States is that it is highly contagious and preventing the spread of it is very difficult. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have given COVID-19’s rapid spread across the globe a pandemic status.
The CDC’s and other health organizations’ guidelines to slow the transmission of the virus, with social distancing and an extremely high level of personal hygiene, are impossible to comply with in prisons with inmates crowded into small cells, as well as their sharing showers and toilets without the resources to keep them highly sanitized. This along with the fact that Illinois prisons, along with hospitals and nursing homes across the nation, lack the proper protective gear such as masks and gloves for their guards and other prison personnel.
According to the lawsuit, more than 50 Illinois prisoners have tested positive for the coronavirus and it says that the actual number of prisoners infected is likely much higher than this. According to the Department of Corrections, 27 of their staff members have tested positive for it.
The lawsuit seeks the immediate medical furlough of some prisoners and for others to be transferred to home arrest. This request includes those who are 55 and older with less than a year left on their sentences.