In Person Visits With Detainees Resume At Cook County Jail

Lorraine Swanson

COOK COUNTY, IL – Nearly three months after Cook County Jail suspended visitors, in-person family visits at Cook County Jail resumed June 5, after a “precipitous” drop in the number of coronavirus cases at the jail.

During the pandemic, 511 detainees tested positive for COVID-19 but recovered and are being monitored and 7 inmates died of the virus, making it a coronavirus hotspot. In addition, 386 correctional employees who tested positive are recovered and back at work, while 2 correctional officers and one sheriff’s deputy died after contracting COVID-19.

As of Sunday, June 7, 36 detainees tested positive, including one inmate who is being treated at a local hospital. Other large prisons and jails around the country, including both the New York City and the Los Angeles County jail systems, the Illinois Department of Corrections, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons continue to suspend in-person visits.

“We have worked hard to find alternative methods to allow families to stay in touch with detainees, but nothing can replace seeing loved ones face-to-face, and that only adds to the already significant stress experienced by the families of those incarcerated,” Sheriff Thomas J. Dart said in a news release. “We believe this is not only beneficial for those in our custody, but also for our staff, since it reduces anxiety among detainees.”

Currently, there are 36 detainees in custody who are positive for the COVID-19. Importantly, from May 8 to June 7, 40 of the 48 new cases identified at the jail have come from newly arriving detainees, the sheriff’s office said. In person outdoor visits began on Friday.

Ten visitation areas have been set up approximately 30 feet apart from each other in the yard of Division 1. Victoria are also screened for COVID-19 using a CDC-approved screening tool and visitors temperatures are taken prior to entry. Each visitor is provided with a mask and hand sanitizer, then escorted to one of the outdoor stations for a 15-minute visit.

Both the detainee and visitor must wear masks and remain six feet apart at all times. No physical contact id allowed. Jail officials expect to accomplish approximately 100 visits daily, weather permitting. Visitation hours will be held from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day including weekends, weather permitting

At the height of the pandemic, the sheriff’s office said detainees were given 30 minutes of free phone time in addition to their normal phone time. Video conferencing stations were installed in each jail division so that detainees and their loved ones could visit online.

This article originally appeared on the Chicago Patch