The last time I was on the veterans' tier in Cook County Jail, one of the detained men sitting on the aluminum benches reached up to shake my hand. “Next time you come, can you bring me a container of fresh air?” That was before we all became wary of the air we breathe, in the days when we still grasped extended hands.
Of the 2.3 million people incarcerated in the United States, 76,000 of them are in Illinois. Of that number, 41,000 are in state prisons and 23,000 are in local county jails. Here in Chicago, in the center of America's heartland, Cook County Jail remains the country's largest single site facility. As of April 10, there were 289 positive tests for COVID‐19 among its detained population. This number went from single to triple digits within a week. As of this writing, 203 Sheriff's Office staff have also tested positive.
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