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Updated Recommendations: COVID-19 and Prison Communities

Updated Recommendations: COVID-19 and Prison Communities

Updated April 27, 2020

Read our earlier recommendations here.

Our state must continue to expand and accelerate early prison releases throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Governor Pritzker must continue centralized early releases, expanding review to focus on anyone within 18 months of release, the terminally ill and disabled, and people over age 55 who are within 2 years of their release dates.
    • Governor Pritzker should issue additional executive orders to remove remaining administrative barriers to the awarding of good time credit (e.g. expand awards to 12 months, remove restrictions for 100-level offenses).
  • In addition to centralized review, Governor Pritzker can increase safety in prisons by directing wardens and counselors to engage in the early-release process proactively.
    • Each warden should be asked to state a goal for reducing their facility’s prison population, noting ideal facility population levels that make isolation and quarantine feasible, and to set weekly benchmarks to reach that goal.
      • Wardens should encourage counselors to request good time restoration for cases not reviewed in the past 90 days or denied before rules were amended. 
      • The Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) and Prison Review Board (PRB) should presume that good time restoration requests by counselors are appropriate (i.e. limit reductions by the Adjustment Committee).
      • Distribute forms to every inmate so they can identify/submit release placements in advance, which will prevent releases from being delayed because of placement. 
    • IDOC must articulate clear eligibility guidelines and application procedures for medical furlough, electronic monitoring, and home detention. To the extent these procedures require or allow for application by inmates, forms should be readily available in each facility, as well as on IDOC’s website.
  • State’s attorneys can initiate sentence reduction for individuals their office’s prosecuted decades ago who may not be reviewed otherwise because of the time remaining to their exit dates.
    • Review individuals whose cases involved statutes that have since been amended by the General Assembly (prospectively), including youth given extremely long sentences who today would be eligible for parole if the Youthful Parole Law, signed in 2019, had been applied retroactively.
    • Review individuals who were convicted of murder or other violent offenses under a theory of accountability, or those convicted of felony-murder for the death of a co-defendent at the hands of a third party.
    • Initiate resentencing hearings for anyone serving less than 5 years on a nonviolent offense.

Our state must ensure a responsible exit process for those selected for early release. 

  • The Governor’s Office should appoint a “czar” to cut through administrative and other barriers to re-entry, including housing, and to ensure consistent communications and directions with partner organizations and the public.
  • During the pandemic, Governor Pritzker should waive the policy that dictates front-line staff within IDOC must physically visit placements before re-entry. 
  • The state must address lags in 311 service, as it is the only means for many people seeking newly available COVID-19 housing. This is particularly important if it is the only point of access for workers seeking to find housing for returning citizens.
  • Make re-entry housing needs a high priority of the Governor’s Office plan involving property managers, landlords, hotels, and colleges.

Standards for COVID-19 response in prisons should mirror response in long-term care facilities.

  • Where even one case has been confirmed, all staff and incarcerated people should receive personal protective equipment (PPE) and be given greater access to hygiene supplies and clean, safe quarantine facilities.
  • IDOC must continue to increase access to supplies for cleaning cells and common areas and ensure proper use by staff.
  • IDOC must develop better system-wide protocols for food preparation and delivery, and those protocols should be reviewed and approved by the Illinois Department of Public Health.
  • IDOC must ensure basic medications are being delivered to people with pre-existing conditions.

Incarcerated people’s family members, friends, and lawyers, as well as the general public, must be given adequate information about COVID19 spread and response in all Illinois facilities.

  • IDOC must begin reporting testing numbers and deaths by facility.
  • IDOC should begin reporting hospitalizations by facility.
  • IDOC should report early releases weekly by facility, including percentages of those being released needing housing and rates of secured housing.
  • The Governor’s Office should give periodic reports on medical furloughs.
  • The Governor’s Office should require reports from each of Illinois’ 102 counties on protocols for public reporting on COVID-19 in jails, including juvenile facilities.

Read our earlier recommendations here.

23 Comments
  • Donna Kelly
    Posted at 21:06h, 27 April Reply

    To Gov. Pritzker,
    My sister is incarcerated at Logan Correctional in Lincoln for a nonviolent and has under 2 years left. She has been a model prisoner and has a place to parole. She also is extremely high risk and I understand is in contact with this virus. She not only has an autoimmune, Behcets, but she also has asthma. I fear for her. These are the type of inmates that should be considered first for release. Her name is Melissa. Please start releasing those most at risk. Thank you.

  • Linda Gleason
    Posted at 00:50h, 29 April Reply

    Attention Gov. Pritzker: I am reaching out to you on behalf of my Son Eric. He is an inmate at Pinckneyville CC .Perry County Illinois.. Eric has been battling Severe Ulcerative Colitis for the past 14 mo. He has been on and off of Prednisone (Steroid’s) without success in controlling his illness….Recently he’s been receiving Humira injection’s…..This has also been ineffective…Both medication’s/treatment’s and prolong use COMPROMISES THE IMMUNE system…He is VERY VULNERABLE TO INFECTION’S AND VIRUSES…. He is very ill as of the writing of this letter 4/28/2020..Having serious inflammation flare up FROM THE Colitis .. he has lost 40 lbs the past 2 mo..He was admitted into the facilities Medical Unite last weekend due to Low White Blood CELL COUNT and Low HEMOGLOBIN…he is scheduled for a colonoscopy tomorrow….So worried and scared…..Beside’s his declining health his life is at ”RISK” THE CORONA VIRUS is spreading through the community and all surrounding communities his facility is located…WE PRAY YOU GET THE DIRECTOR OF PRISON’S AND WARDEN’S AND ANYONE ELSE IN CHARGE OF PUTTING FORWARD YOUR EXECUTIVE ORDER FOR MEDICAL FURLOUGH’S IMMEDIATELY!! He has no violent history and has a Very Strong Supporting Family to Stay In Place through the Epidemic…We can get him the medical attention he need’s…We are at your MERCY…And The Mercy of IDOC…Pl.ease Sir I Pray you take my Son into Consideration …release for Medical Furlough ..God Bless You Sir ..and God Bless ALL Our Loved One’s.and Families.. Thank you..

  • Evelyn Kirkman
    Posted at 03:06h, 29 April Reply

    My son’s name is ALBERT incarcerated at Murphysboro Re entry center (IDOC) He has completed copious education classes.Exhibits good
    behavior and often times assists other inmates with learning accomplishments also in which contributed to good time toward his out date but 6months retroactive time was not allowed him which prevented his early relief. I feel he should be released immediately because of coronavirus without any other technicalities..PLEASE!!

  • Luke R Sullivan
    Posted at 22:59h, 29 April Reply

    To Governor Pritzker,
    I write you in the hopes that you read this in regards to my Father Richard, Currently part of the Statesville correctional facility. Ive been fortunate that the staff at the institution have allowed him multiple calls in the last few weeks after a month of nothing, No contact until a letter I received indicating his physical state, he has been locked in a cell for day after day no ability to leave and at the very least move about the facility breathe fresh air and not the recirculated virus cloud im sure that is the current . Hes 60 and up until being placed inside was a heavy smoker and has dealt with breathing issues pneumonia and lung infections, hes a prime candidate to get this terrible virus and based on your own health directors guidelines would suffer greatly should he contract it and im very concerned for his safety. If you sir are serious about saving lives then why leave people crammed into jails especially older portions of the population, I ask you to consider his selection for early release before this pandemic claims another life, one that is easily avoided and allow him to show that your gracious ruling is not in vain. He has been a loyal tax paying citizen who has worked himself hard and has paid the price for it, I would ask that you don’t let the virus be the ultimate form of punishment and be the caring politician your news briefings make you out to be. Thank and I hope this reaches you sooner rather then later

    Regards,
    Luke

  • Donna L. Ester
    Posted at 14:36h, 03 May Reply

    Governor Pritzker. I Write You in Hope in regard of My Son Rafael He is in IDOC Centralia, IL. He has Asthma, High blood Pressure, and Headaches quite often. And We are Greatly. Concerned about His Health His Physical-being. And About Covid-19 is Spreading . And May God and Your Mercy Released Rafael Immediately..His a Home and Employment waiting for Him and His Family & Love Ones Sincerely Appreciate You & Thank You Amen.

  • Illinois COVID 19 in Detention - World Peace Foundation
    Posted at 13:49h, 04 May Reply

    […] Justice Foundation https://restorejustice.org/updated-recommendations-covid-19-and-prison-communities/ advocates for fairness, humanity, and compassion throughout the Illinois criminal justice system, […]

  • Maud Ofori-Annor
    Posted at 18:42h, 06 May Reply

    Good afternoon Governor Pritzker and whomever it may concern,
    This post is to request assistance from you or staff with releasing my fiance Joseph A.k.a Andre. He is currently housed at Lawrence correctional center under the inmate name Andre. His current released date is 7/21/2020 but originally was to be released back on 1/21/2020. He was at Shawnee Correctional Center in 2017 where he was disciplined n solitary confinement for 6 months and was given 6 months additional time making his new release date 07/21/2020. The disciplinary occurrence at Shawnee and was charged and found guilty unfairly. He was accused of having marijuana in his cell and after drug testing him came back inconclusive, the searched his cell and found nothing. Internal Affairs pressed him to implicate me his fiance as an accomplice to bringing him drugs into a state prison. He again denied he had any drugs and also denied the accusations implicating his fiance had brought drugs to the prison. After the investigation they sent him to Solitary confinement for 6 months saying he was with holding info for this case and band me his fiance (Maud) from visiting him at any IDOC prison. We asked for another investigation because this was inaccurate and they kept giving us the round around. Eventually we gave up and i have not seen my fiance physically for over 3 years now. he has been in prison since 2014. ( I do believe this is illegal and if any real evidence indicated I did such a thing i would be in prison myself). I have never been incarcerated ever. I believe my husband was wrongfully given an extended time to remain in the jail and would appreciate an immediate release due to COVID19 and error on IDOC processing.

  • Erica Davis
    Posted at 04:24h, 07 May Reply

    Attention Gov. Pritzker: I am reaching out to you on behalf of Anthony who is incarcerated at Hill Correctional Facility. Anthony has been incarcerated for 29 years 14 for a case that was dismissed. I am standing with the advocates for fairness, humanity, and compassion throughout the Illinois criminal

  • Cordell lamar
    Posted at 21:19h, 07 May Reply

    To governor Pritzker, I’m coming to you today on the behalf of Ronald. My brother been in prison for over 10 years and I know he’s rehabilitated and he will become a productive member to society. He has a great support system a place to stay if he get released and a job waiting for him also. He achieved his g.e.d, business degree, and other certificates while incarcerated. The Coronavirus is very serious and he have loved ones worried because the conditions in prison is terrible. Guards and inmates life are at risk. Please take that to consideration and thank you for your time

    Sincerely,
    Cordell

  • Graciano Negron
    Posted at 23:15h, 07 May Reply

    To Governor Pritzker, My name is Graciano and I’m contacting you on behalf of my cousin, Ronald. Ronald has been incarcerated for over 10 years now and has since grown to be a much better person. He’s obtained a G.E.D, business degree and many other certificates. He’s also been promised a good, stable job upon his release. I’m certain you understand that times are especially difficult now due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That being said, I’m becoming very concerned of the state and safety of Ronald’s well-being in prison. The conditions there are terrible and are a huge risk to the health of guards and prisoners. I’m sincerely asking you take the time to consider granting Ronald’s release during this time. I hope this information is enough to prove to you my cousin’s improvement and how much of an asset he will become to this society. Thank you so much for your consideration and time. Sincerely, Graciano

  • Michael Walters
    Posted at 15:34h, 13 May Reply

    Keshawn was tried as an adult at age 15. His crime was violent. But he was no adult as the courts sentenced him to 23 years for murder. He has served over eight years of his sentence. The COVID-19 threat is real. .The young man made poor choices but deserves a second chance at like. He has grown up which being in prison and he received his GED degree. Since the state can no longer afford offering community college classes to inmates there is no other opportunities to continue his education. Please consider Keshawn for early release.

  • Jennifer
    Posted at 01:05h, 21 May Reply

    Dear Gov. Pitzner
    My husband Rico is in Pinckneyville Correctional Center with less than a 180 days left, He has diabetes. We are seeking an early release if possible.

  • Kendra Obrien
    Posted at 15:26h, 21 May Reply

    I’m pleading with you please my father has cancer and is dieing also has virus. I’ve lost my father almost my kids I’m not well all I have is my sister and fiance who is both incarcerated Jeffery has copd nopoids on both lungs heart condition and diabetic in vienna prison. My sister Kimberly has copd and other health problems in Logan prison governor please I beg u I’m disabled and need them to care for me memory is going and dad cant please.

  • Michelle Jadzak
    Posted at 15:53h, 22 May Reply

    CLEMENCY FOR MY SON ZACHARY – He plead not guilty, however, was convicted under accountability (he was in backseat of a car) for a Home Invasion (of a known drug dealer that took a plea deal for testifying). Fortunately, nobody was hurt. Zach is appealing this because: Nobody was in the house and Zach was in the backseat of a car. Some witnesses at trial testified to this. His sentence is 23 years at 50% and will have served 5 years this June. I have read about similar or worse circumstances where the individuals received a substantially lower sentence. Zachary is currently confined at Gramham Correctional Center and feels like he received the death sentence because of the pandemic. Our country also has a problem with mass incarceration and in great need of Criminal Justice Reform. My son is a non-violent, low-level offender without any ties to any criminal organizations or gangs. My son has no criminal history. Anyone who has spent time with Zach will tell you he follows the rules, is respectful and hasn’t caused any problems. I believe this experience of spending time in prison has saved my son’s life. He was an addict, another statistic in our opioid epidemic. He has persevered through some very tough times. Now he is 5 years sober, found his faith again in God, helps others, is writing a book, and is looking forward to talking more college classes or attend a trade school. The first time you meet him you will see a soft spoken and kind hearted young man that gets along great with others. Please pray that Zach is granted clemency.

  • Cassandra Barker
    Posted at 20:11h, 22 May Reply

    Anthony Allen has been incarcerated for almost 29 yrs . He’s been convicted of a crime that dismissed 14 yrs ago . The crime was for first degree murder and he wasn’t the driver . The state dismissed

  • Christopher Neely
    Posted at 18:44h, 26 May Reply

    To Gov.Pritzker. I am Christopher reaching out to you about my nephew Ronald. On behalf of Ronald whom is and has been incarcerated for over 10 years and has done a dramatic 360 during this time. Being my nephew Governor Pritzker i’ve noticed and has personally seen these dramatic changes he’s gone thru and completed. Achieving his G.E.D diploma was the first major step which it didn’t stop there. He went on to receive other degrees and certificates. Due to tragedies which happened in his life especially loosing his mother it wasn’t going to stop him from moving forward and taking the necessary steps to walk a fine line. I know his mom would truely be proud.. Due to the Coronavirus which has had a tremendous effect on all of our lives and family members. We worry deeply about Ronald because of his daily living conditions in these prisons. Especially his health. No one is exempt. I do understand but due to what i’ve seen my nephew has been thru and what he has achieved today i’m asking you Gov.Pritzker to take into consideration and take a look at sending him home to his loved one’s whom is waiting with open arms. He has a job prepared and waiting for him. A loving home with all types of family and friends support. Family and friends are willing to support with whatever he needs to help him to be that productive member of society. There is no limit what i’m willing to do. Church and it’s member also. Please take time to consider this letter Gov.Pritzker. I know your a busy man. Thanks for the good job your doing. Sincerely yours, Christopher

  • Carrie Neely
    Posted at 19:53h, 26 May Reply

    Dear Gov.Pritzker, I’m writing to you today on the behalf of my grandson Ronald whom has been incarcerated for over 10 years. I don’t get a chance to visit him due to my health. Now that Covid19 which has caught us all by surprise it’s really,difficult,scary and frightening because of unknown everyday deaths especially family due to this virus. I would Love to hug,kiss and see face to face my Grandson rather than not to be viewed in a box nor vice-versa seeing him. I don’t want to view another family member especially seeing him that way. Due to the conditionss that surrounds the penal systems this virus has no limits to the lives it touches and takes. My Grandson was a teen when the crime was committed and was tremendously misled and mistreated. We lost his Mom a few years later my daughter and he still managed to put one foot in front of the other and achieved his GED diploma and began to receive other certificates. I am truely proud him especially when it comes to mind over matter situations. He’s learned to rise above and excel. A whole complete life change. I Love and enjoy his phone conversations. Very educational and Love. I Love the walk he’s walking. He has planned and continues to plan his future and goals has been set but due to this coronavirus the odds are really against us all. He has a stable job awaiting him. Beautiful home with full family,church and close friends support. Alot has been achieved by my grandson Ronald already. A strong minded man. Gov.Pritzker please help me to help him achieve the rest. Sincerely Grandmother Carrie Neely

  • Kenisha Smith
    Posted at 11:26h, 30 May Reply

    Hey gov Pritzker I’m writing on behalf of Dareonte he has been incarcerated for a year now with 5months to go if not longer he has 3 little sister & 1 little brother we just lost his first cousin to Covar 19 last month so it’s really been hard on the family he’s the extra help around the house his mom work 1 of his little sister is sick need help gettin around & mom now has to put more work into home she just Recovered from a mental breakdown she lost her mother not too long ago so things have been kind of tough and also she losing hours & she’s the only 1 with income so bills & medical bills are backing up all cause this big piece of the puzzle is not around to help out with his siblings Dareonte Always played a big part in his siblings life he was his sister care taker Dareonte is & has been in GED Program he trying to show improvements With the Cove or 19 It is a big threat to his sisters health conditions so it’s hard to say who can be around her doing this pandemic Dareonte commits to attending and finishing his GED program if he is granted the ability to release early he will also be attending college courses once he’s done his family will be greatly appreciated to have him back home safe and sound Thank you we are going to pray for a good outcome in this situation

  • Echo Hampton
    Posted at 18:34h, 30 May Reply

    To Gov. Pritzker,
    I am writing to you about my father, who is in Danville Correctional Center has under 4 years left on his sentence. He has been a model prisoner and has a place to parole. These are the type of inmates that should be considered first for release. His name is Micheal I really truly miss my father. He has a wonderful family to support him and whatever he needs to do. He also has grandchildren that would love to meet him and to be apart of his life. My dad is 60 years old and has missed a lot of his kid’s lives. So please consider releasing those most at risk. Thank you.

  • Tiffany A Klasinz
    Posted at 22:04h, 16 June Reply

    to Gov. Pritzker my brother was wrongfully accused of statutoy rape he was in the wrong place at the wrong time it didn’t even go to a trial the judge said take a plea deal is your only real choice never ever bing in trouble with the cops b4.. .he was not read his rights witch iv read he should b set free ….all it was word to mouth i didnt no here say could put u in jail theres no proof of anything they didnt do a dna test or a lie detector test or sex kit its unfair when u got the wrong guy …… so you let the real guy slip tho and is free doing god nos what to other children or who nos i wish someone would look into this hes marked as criminal sex assault/consent and its unfair to mark some one when they r innocent his name is Steve he’s stuck at muddy river correctional this mistake the cops did ruined our family and our name and he will never have a normal life if you cant right this injustice …please help our family and get him home

  • Tearra Webster
    Posted at 13:40h, 20 June Reply

    Attention Governor Pritzker : my cousin is being held at Champaign county jail for a crime that appears to be discriminatory against him . He is in jail for aggravated battery after getting into a fight with U of I college Caucasian student , after my cousin who is African American defended himself he was arrested and charged . He was on parole already so the PRB chose to violate him . We have gotten him a lawyer but this lawyer has been no help in which I am filing a complaint against also for discrimination also . He is very rude and has cursed as me and my family when we called to get updates . We recently bonded my cousin out after hearing they were letting inmates for lesser charges in spite of Covid and also he has asthma . The PRB lied and said they reviewed his case for release and never sent him paperwork or his parole officer . They are now saying they refused to let him out , did not send him any paper work saying yes or no and basically have him sitting in Champaign county until IDOC opens to finish his sentence which he has less then a 1 year . Please look in matter and contact me as this matter it is being untreated unfair . Several other men , ( Caucasian) have been giving house arrest and have went home to there families . My cousin is a good kid like all who made a decision after being provoked by a drunken student and is now in Champaign county jail sitting since according to the jail can’t be released until IDOC comes to pick him up . He has a home to go to right now , please release him . Or look into this matter . Please

  • Charniece Luster
    Posted at 03:39h, 26 June Reply

    Attention Governor Pritzker,

    I am reaching out to you on behalf of Ronald. Ronald has been in prison for over 10 years, which is a harsh reality given the fact that he was only 15 when sentenced. He paid his dues. We have good faith that Ronald will be another success story for life after prison. He has earned his G.E.D and other educational tools while incarcerated. He has an excellent support system and access to other resources for returning citizens upon being released. Ronald plans to continued to give back to his community. Another harsh reality is the corona virus pandemic, in which is making the prison conditions horrific. This is increasing our concerns for Ronald. We ask that you please consider his early release. This will give him a promising future. Thank you for your time and consideration.

  • Kyvaonna Fields
    Posted at 23:07h, 26 June Reply

    Attention Governor Pritzker: I’m writing this letter in regards of my boyfriend Terrace He is currently locked up in the correctional center and he has less then 10 months left I feel like he deserves another chance to come home and turn his life around I pray that you give him that chance thank you and have a blessed day

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