Resources & Situational Awareness

Late last week, the Chicago Community Bond Fund, civil rights law firm Loevy & Loevy, Civil Rights Corps, and the MacArthur Justice Center filed an emergency class-action lawsuit against Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart, asking for the immediate release of medically vulnerable people in the Cook County Jail in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.

Chicago Community Bond released a statement on the Solidarity Caravan calling for mass release of incarcerated people in the name of public health. Visit their blog to see more documentation of their efforts as COVID-19 evolves.

Visit the Illinois Department of Corrections website to see updated COVID-19 case numbers in correctional facilities throughout Illinois, and how facilities are responding to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Injustice Watch has been tracking the number of new COVID-19 cases in the Cook County Jail.

Project NIA is asking supporters to join them this week in calling for your Governors to use their clemency power to release incarcerated people who are particularly vulnerable to illness and death during this ongoing global pandemic.

They also invite you to film yourself reciting Gwendolyn Brooks’ “To Prisoners” and then post it on social media with the hashtag #FreeThem4Public Health. Follow this think if you’re interested in participating.

Many advocates, loved ones, and organizations have come together to start a letter-writing and pen pal campaign to folks in prison in response to COVID-19. Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) has suspended almost all programs and visits statewide to halt the spread of the virus. Illinois prisons have already confirmed cases of COVID-19 and people are beginning to die in state custody. Right now, people in IDOC are feeling even more isolated and fearful than usual.

If you are interested in receiving a pen pal, you can fill out this form. You should receive an email response with the name and information of someone in an Illinois prison as well as directions. Emailing via IDOC’s GTL system is also an option.

The Illinois Network for Pretrial Justice Calls for Statewide Jail Reduction to Protect Public Health.

Showing Up for Racial Justice shared a Decarceration Toolkit. This toolkit offers resources for you to both support efforts across the country and to strengthen efforts in your area to get people out of jails, prisons and detention centers.

The Chicago Torture Justice Center put together some resources for wellness during the coronavirus. They are also asking for donations to their Survivor Relief Fund in the Time of COVID-19.

A coalition of organizations and concerned citizens: educators, advocates, mental health professionals, community organizers, and lawyers who recognize the urgent need to release youth from IDJJ facilities and the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center have shared how they are responding to COVID-19.

PEN America Prison and Justice Writing Program has launched Temperature Check: COVID-19 Behind Bars, a new rapid response series featuring original creative reportage by incarcerated writers, accompanied by podcast interviews with criminal justice reform experts on the pandemic’s impact in United States’ prisons. You can check out the first issue on their website.

Arts for Illinois, a new collaboration between the State of Illinois, the City of Chicago, and the broader philanthropic community, announced the Arts For Illinois Relief Fund, which will provide immediate relief directly to individual artists and artisans, including stage and production crew members and part-time cultural workers, as well as art organizations, through grants to help those unable to work during this temporary shut-down. Arts for Illinois also launched an online platform that features the work of artists across the state.

Envisioning Justice friends and partners Sixty Inches from Center released an article with a growing collection of resources and recommendations for artists.

DCASE (Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events) has put together a list of resources for artists and arts organizations in Chicago and across the United States.

A coalition of advocacy organizations that do work to support our imprisoned community members across the state of Illinois created a website to share all of the practical work being done to care for incarcerated individuals in the state of Illinois during COVID-19.

Youth Correctional Leaders for Justice shared a list of recommendations for youth justice systems during the COVDI-19 pandemic.

You should also check out this statement from community supervision executives on the importance of using best practices during the COVID-19 crisis by Executive Transforming Probation and Parole.

The Prison Policy Initiative has shared some great information and resources about how prison populations are affected by COVID-19 and how the criminal justice system can take proactive measures towards flattening the curve.

YWCA Metropolitan Chicago has compiled a list of resources in response to COVID-19.

If you’re concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on people involved in the criminal legal system, check out this resource from The Justice Collaborative that includes links to recommended guidelines, fact sheets, and advocacy activities.

Incarceration Reform: A Digital Resource Center for Criminal Justice Reform created a document of ways to support decarceration in Illinois to protect public health during COVID-19.

The Marshall Project has been keeping track of prison responses to the COVID-19 outbreak across the United States. You can find information about the changes happening at prisons around the nation here. 

Check out Vera Institute of Justice’s coronavirus guidance for the criminal and immigration legal systems.


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