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Summer violence could overwhelm coronavirus precautions in Chicago's biggest jail

June 30, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

Inside America's jails and prisons there's a delicate balance at play, weighing the usual demands of a typically crowded inmate population against the potent reality of an ongoing coronavirus pandemic. These precautions have mostly come in the form of single celling detainees, quarantining individuals who are either sick or symptomatic, reducing the overall population by releasing nonviolent low-level offenders and more.

In places like Chicago's Cook County Jail, summertime spikes in detainees are typical, usually coinciding with violence in the warmer months, meaning that the "delicate balance" they've put in place to protect against coronavirus quickly gets thrown off.

In total, since their first confirmed cases in mid-March, more than 500 detainees ended up testing positive, seven of them died.

By mid-April, Cook County jail had released about a fourth of its entire population and even months later it remains among its lowest headcount in history.

"We have a jail that can only maintain a limited population because of Covid-19 and we should be making sure that our attention is going after those that are causing harm to our community," said Kim Foxx, Cook County State's Attorney.

In total, just under 50,000 inmates nationwide have tested positive for coronavirus over the course of this pandemic, and at least 585 have died as a result of Covid-19, according to data compiled by The Marshall Project, a non-profit journalism organization collecting data on Covid-19 infections in state and federal prisons.

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