For Immediate Release | March 30, 2020
CHICAGO — Leaders with Alliance for Safety and Justice (ASJ) and Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice praised Governor J.B. Pritzker for his leadership in Illinois’ COVID-19 response, while highlighting additional steps that can help protect vulnerable populations to stop the spread of the Coronavirus. The groups especially noted the attention Governor Pritzker has paid to supporting essential health and social services as well as incarcerated individuals.
“We applaud Gov. Pritzker’s executive order that allows the Illinois Department of Corrections to safely release people in its custody, and the COVID-19 Response Fund for organizations serving individuals and families affected most by the pandemic,” said Aswad Thomas, Managing Director of Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice. “We must ensure that essential services for vulnerable communities — who needed enhanced access before the Coronavirus — continues with maximal support in this increased time of need. The crisis assistance services that the most vulnerable people go to for help –– from emergency shelters and housing for domestic violence survivors and others to trauma recovery, reentry centers, nonprofit community and faith-based services –– are pivotal to protecting public health.”
Governor Pritzker issued an executive order empowering the Illinois Department of Corrections’ (IDOC) director to make effective use of sentence credits to safely release people back into their communities.
On Thursday, U.S. Attorney General William Barr called for the Federal Bureau of Prisons to consider releasing at-risk incarcerated persons vulnerable to the virus into home confinement. Barr argued it would lessen the risk of the virus spreading rapidly in correctional facilities. ASJ recommends that the Pritzker administration take similar action.
“Like the federal Bureau of Prisons, Illinois has expansive power in existing law to release currently incarcerated people on electronic home detention,” said John Maki, Alliance for Safety and Justice’s Director of Local and State Government Best Practices. “A bipartisan commission, convened by the previous governor, recommended that Illinois should expand its use of electronic home detention to safely reduce the prison population. This is an important tool that Governor Pritzker and his administration can use to help protect incarcerated people and the staff who work in Illinois’ prisons.”
ASJ leaders urged that IDOC should place those eligible people who are in prison, particularly those who have access to housing, on electronic home detention to serve the remainder of their sentences. This step can decrease the likelihood of a major outbreak within a single institution — an occurrence the nation has unfortunately seen in jails and nursing homes across the country, where there is little ability to social distance, even amongst staff. Eligibility would include those who have a short amount of time on their sentences and those who are elderly and medically vulnerable.
ASJ praised the Pritzker administration’s efforts thus far, and encouraged additional steps to deepen support for essential services that ensure crime survivors and people living with past convictions have the support needed to protect public health.
The Alliance for Safety and Justice is a national organization that aims to win new safety priorities in states across the country. We partner with leaders to advance state reform through networking, coalition building, research, education and advocacy. We also bring together diverse crime survivors to advance policies that help communities most harmed by crime and violence.
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