Detainee Declarations and Sheriff’s Own Admissions Show He is Failing to Provide Testing and Social Distancing

CHICAGO, May 21, 2020 — A federal court judge will hold a hearing this afternoon about detainees’ claims that Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart is not complying with a court order to protect detainees’ health and safety. The hearing will also address the Sheriff’s request that he be excused from complying.

Last night attorneys for the plaintiffs filed declarations [2] challenging Dart’s assertions that he is in compliance with Judge Matthew F. Kennelly’s order. The order and today’s hearing are the result of a class action lawsuit filed last month by a consortium of local civil rights activists and attorneys.

While state and local authorities have repeatedly criticized some members of the public for lack of social distancing and other safety measures, activists and attorneys charge that Sheriff Dart has repeatedly failed to implement such measures at Cook County Jail. The result is that Jail has become one of the nation’s leading Covid-19 hotspots, with over 800 documented Coronavirus cases among detainees and staff, and 10 deaths.

Sheriff Dart has claimed that he is complying with the federal court’s orders, but refuses to provide information about who he is testing or how he decides or who is being permitted to socially distancing and who isn’t. Plaintiffs have asked the federal court to order Dart to provide information about its compliance with the court’s order. In response, the Sheriff asked to be excused from compliance until his appeal of the court’s order is resolved.

“It is deeply problematic for the Sheriff to insist that all is well within the Jail, and that the case should be stayed, while at the same time continuing his vehement opposition to Plaintiffs’ efforts to obtain evidence that would shed light on the realities behind Jail walls,” said Alexa Van Brunt of the MacArthur Justice Center.

The lead plaintiffs in the federal class action suit are Anthony Mays and Judia Jackson, working with activists at the Chicago Community Bond Fund. In court they are represented by Loevy & Loevy Attorneys at Law, Civil Rights Corps, and the MacArthur Justice Center.

Photo credit: Chicago Community Bond Fund

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