Chicago - Sep. 24, 2020
Music TV Politics Sports Books People Places & Things
 
Beachwood Politics
Our monthly archive.
Who We Are
Chicago by the numbers.
Sausage Links
Wiki Daley
Wiki Rahm
Illinois Channel
CAN TV
Ralph Martire
Doonesbury
Government Attic
Division Street
Indie Political Report
The Obameter
ProPublica
The Intercept
SCOTUS Blog
American Dream Betrayed

Illinois Coronavirus Inbox: Prisoners & Workers Plead For Protection

1. COVID-19 Outbreak Has Endangered The Lives Of Youth In Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center.

From: The Children and Family Justice Center at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law.

"More than three dozen criminal justice reform and youth advocate organizations have urged court officials to take immediate action to reduce the number of young people detained - and in danger of being infected with COVID-19 - inside the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center.

"Each person held at the detention center should be evaluated for release to allow them to shelter-in-place at home, and immediate release should be granted to those youth already evaluated and determined safe to return home by the Cook County state's attorney and public defender, according to a letter sent to Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Anne M. Burke, Cook County Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans and other court officials.

"'We are aware of several efforts to review youth cases for release to shelter-in-place at home. However, despite an increase in detention review hearings during the last week of March, many youth remain in custody,' the letter states. 'As of April 1, there were still 171 youth detained at the JTDC. A juvenile assistant public defender and a JTDC staff member have tested positive for the virus. It is only a matter of time before the situation becomes untenable and life-threatening for youth, staff, court personnel, and the larger community.'"

2. Federal Lawsuit Demands Release Of People From Cook County Jail To Prevent Coronavirus Deaths.

From: The Chicago Community Bond Fund

"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.

"The lawsuit filing follows three weeks of campaigning after the release of an open letter to Cook County officials endorsed by more than 100 community, policy, and legal organizations demanding the mass release of people from Cook County Jail in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The Cook County Jail is being overrun by COVID-19. Currently, the infection rate inside the jail is nearly 40 times the overall rate in Cook County. And while the rest of us have been able to engage in social distancing to protect ourselves, both detainees and jail staff alike have alerted us that numerous people inside the jail, many with serious medical conditions, are housed in open areas where social distancing is impossible. If something isn't done to reduce the number of people in Cook County Jail, there is every reason to believe that people will needlessly die," said Stephen Weil of Loevy & Loevy.

"The lawsuit also challenges the current conditions of the Cook County Jail, alleging that the jail is unable to provide access to basic hygiene to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 - including means for frequent handwashing with soap and water and the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

"The law is crystal clear on this point," said Charlie Gerstein, an attorney with Civil Rights Corps. "You simply may not jail people in conditions that expose them to an intolerable risk of illness and death, and that's exactly what Dart is doing at this very moment. We've asked the federal court to immediately put a stop to this ongoing crisis."

"The first person in the Cook County Jail tested positive for COVID-19 just two weeks ago on March 23rd. Since then, an entire division of the jail has been quarantined. While at least 234 people jailed and 78 staff have tested positive as of April 5, doctors at the jail's health center estimate that the actual rate of infection is three to four times that amount.

"When COVID-19 spreads inside a jail, both people detained and staff are at risk. Every day, hundreds of jail employees working on three different shifts travel into and out of the jail. Each employee could potentially be carrying and transmitting COVID-19 not only within the jail, but also in their homes and neighborhoods. The rapid spread of infection within the jail also ensures many people become seriously ill at the same time, contributing to the strain on the healthcare system and threatening the well-being of all Cook County residents.

"Thousands of people are caged in Cook County Jail, many simply because they can't afford to pay bond. The living conditions in Cook County Jail are not suitable for human beings; people are living like animals. There is no such thing as social distancing because people are squeezed together like sardines in a can. People's lives are in jeopardy inside the jail. Our elected officials are not doing enough. If we don't do something, people are going to die," said Flonard Wrencher, an advocate with Chicago Community Bond Fund who was previously incarcerated in Cook County Jail.

"In addition to requesting the release of medically vulnerable people in the Cook County Jail, the lawsuit asks that people remaining in the jail be housed in accordance with CDC guidance to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

"There are now 234 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among persons detained in the County Jail, and growing daily," said Locke Bowman, Executive Director of the MacArthur Justice Center. "Cook County Jail has become a petri dish for COVID-19. We are all in this together - those who are free and those being detained. Allowing this outbreak to expand as it has, endangers lives of detainees and jail staff as well as family members, essential workers, first responders, and frontline medical caregivers and all of the rest of us."

The complaint.

*

First Life Lost to COVID-19 In Cook County Jail.

"We are deeply saddened to learn that the first person incarcerated in Cook County Jail has died of COVID-19. On March 26th, the individual's public defender filed an emergency motion for bond review in an attempt to secure their release from the jail. That motion was denied - a decision that ultimately became a pretrial death sentence.

"For weeks, more than 100 advocacy, community, legal organizations and unions have called on Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, Chief Judge Timothy Evans, and State's Attorney Kimberly Foxx to support the mass release of people incarcerated in Cook County Jail to protect public health. This death was perfectly preventable. It could have been avoided if our County government would have headed our call, a call echoed by National Nurses United and SEIU Local 73, the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board, former Cook County Jail warden Dr. Nneka Jones Tapia, Reverend Jesse Jackson, and so many others.

"As of Sunday, more than 230 people incarcerated in Cook County Jail have tested positive for COVID-19. The rate of infection inside the jail is almost 40 times the rate in Cook County. While many of us on the outside have the privilege of being able to socially distance ourselves and regularly wash our hands, these simple precautions are impossible for incarcerated people.

"Over the last week, CCBF staff and volunteers have talked to nearly 100 families with loved ones trapped inside the jail in preparation for a federal lawsuit challenging the conditions in which people are being incarcerated in the jail. Time and time again, we heard how people incarcerated in Cook County Jail have not been given increased access to soap (which typically comes in the form of one hotel-sized bar per week), nor any hand sanitizer or cleaning products. People locked in the jail are caged like sardines in a can, forced to share phones, toilets, and showers with dozens and, in some cases, hundreds of people. These conditions are not fit for human beings under normal circumstances, but in the age of COVID-19, they have become a death trap.

"Last week, approximately 1,000 people remained incarcerated in Cook County Jail simply because they could not afford to pay a money bond. With every passing day, more people are placed in that situation as more people are booked into the jail. We have often said that the size of someone's bank account should not determine whether or not they're caged, and it goes without saying that the size of someone's bank account should not determine whether or not they live or die.

"Every loss of life from COVID-19 that occurs in a county jail, juvenile detention center, prison, or immigrant detention center, was a death that was likely preventable. The refusal of elected officials to prioritize safety and health over mass incarceration has ensured that many more people will become infected while incarcerated and suffer from serious illness and death.

"Today, Cook County officials have blood on their hands. We again call on Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, Chief Judge Timothy Evans, and State's Attorney Kimberly Foxx to support a mass release of people incarcerated in Cook County Jail. Anything less is unconscionable. We are in an unprecedented crisis that calls for unprecedented action."

3. Manufacturing Workers Self-Quarantine After Co-Workers Contract Covid-19.

From: Arise Chicago.

"MAT Holdings, Inc. is a $1.9 billion company that manufacturers car parts. The company has offices in Long Grove and manufacturing sites in Romeoville, and across the globe.

"Workers at the MAT Holdings plant in Romeoville report an employee tested positive for Covid-19, and have had unclear information from the company. They are demanding clear communication about health risks, and that the company take proper responsibility for the health of its workers - including professional cleaning and disinfecting of the plant and paid sick time to prevent possible spread of the virus.

"Workers report rather than hire a professional company, MAT Holdings Vice President, Bob Patton and General Manager Jamie offered workers increased pay to do the cleaning themselves, without proper protection. Workers demand two weeks paid time off while they self-quarantine.

"Workers at Raymundo's Food Group in Bedford Park were told by the company, with over a week's delay, that a worker had tested positive for COVID19. Several workers use and touch the same pieces of equipment, and work in very close proximity to each other. The punch-in machine they must touch with their hands is not disinfected. Now, two more cases have been reported, in the same position of the first infected worker. Workers demand two weeks paid time off while they self quarantine."

4. VA Workers Demand Telework For Eligible Employees To Prevent Coronavirus Spread.

From: American Federation of Government Employees.

"Employees of the Edward Hines Jr. Veterans Administration Hospital are speaking out after they discovered new Director James Doelling's plan to revoke telework for all employees in the midst of the global Covid-19 Pandemic. The hospital has already had at least 7 cases of employees and 9 cases of patients contracting the Covid-19 virus.

"VA employees are dedicated to the health of our veterans, which is why we want to reduce the possibility of COVID-19 spreading in our hospitals. We have been working to increase telework for employees who can do their work from home, in accordance with national VA guidelines, which is why this arbitrary and dangerous rule is such a slap in the face." according to Germaine Clarno, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 781, one of the unions at the hospital.

"We need to make sure our front line nurses, doctors and maintenance staff have the resources they need to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but part of that means that employees who don't have to physically be at the hospital at this time of crisis, should be allowed to work from home. It doesn't do anyone any good if a pharmacist, social worker, or Dietitian gets sick from coronavirus and continues to come into the hospital when they could have been working from home. We know that people can be spreading the disease without showing symptoms, and the more we can do to reduce that risk, the healthier our nations veterans will be."

"The local union has started an online petition, 'Do Not Ban Telework' to show support for the social distancing guidelines advised by the CDC.

"The National VA Council of AFGE has filed a national OSHA complaint regarding a shortage of Personal Protective Equipment or PPE's. AFGE has called for the VA to fill the 49,000 vacancies at the VA, 431 at Hines."

*

VA Workers Denounce Using Covid-19 To Justify Union-Busting.

"Employees of the Edward Hines Jr. Veterans Administration Hospital are furiously condemning new Hines VA Director James Doelling's illegal refusal to bargain with the local union regarding his plan to revoke telework for all employees in the midst of the global Covid-19 Pandemic. The hospital has already had at least 7 cases of employees and 9 cases of patients contracting the Covid-19 virus.

"VA employees don't want to risk asymptomatic non-essential employees from spreading the coronavirus. When Director Doelling moved to revoke all previously approved telework, in contradiction to AFGE's union contract, CDC guidelines, and national VA guidance, the union requested to open bargaining to discuss this proposed change in their working conditions, with the concern that it would have on veterans health.

"The Director's response was a letter that used the covid-19 virus as an excuse to union-bust, which claimed that 'bargaining over the impact and implementation of operational changes to working conditions may unacceptably stall our response to this healthcare crisis.'

"The fact is unions save lives." according to Germaine Clarno, President of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 781, one of the unions at the hospital. "AFGE is fighting for PPE's for essential hospital staff, and to prevent community spread through social distancing. By refusing to listen to front line employees, Director Doelling is placing the lives of veterans at risk, and prolonging this crisis."

"We will be filing a Unfair Labor Practices claim with the Federal Labor Relations Authority, a complaint with OSHA, and with the VA Inspector General, because the health of our veterans is too important to disregard the common sense safety measures the union is advocating for."

The local union has also started an online petition, 'Do Not Ban Telework' to show support for the social distancing guidelines advised by the CDC. The National VA Council of AFGE has filed a national OSHA complaint regarding a shortage of Personal Protective Equipment or PPE's.

"'AFGE has called for the VA to fill the 49,000 vacancies at the VA, 431 at Hines,' AFGE National Vice-President Dorothy James said, 'We have been calling for the VA to be fully staffed for years, and pandemics like this show the consequences of not fully investing in veterans health and other needs. The Trump administration has been more focused on union-busting, and slashing the federal budget while giving tax breaks to the rich, when it should have been listening to doctors and experts to minimize the spread of this virus.'"

-

Comments welcome.



Permalink

Posted on April 7, 2020


MUSIC - Muddy Waters Museum Has Mojo.
TV - WGN Now Trump TV.
POLITICS - President Trump Has 3,400 Conflicts Of Interest.
SPORTS - The Big Ten's Blood Money.

BOOKS - Searching For The World's Largest Owl.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - New Mop Shaped Like Taco.


Search The Beachwood Reporter

Subscribe To Our Newsletter
Email:

Follow BeachwoodReport on Twitter



Beachwood Radio!