NEW Looking at data from the Cook County jail and the Illinois Department of Public Health, researchers from Harvard University found that almost 16% of all COVID-19 cases in the state were associated with the presence of people who had cycled through the Cook County jail. These findings have been disputed by the Cook County sheriff, whose office released a statement that cases were coming into the jail, not the other way around.

The Cook County Sheriff is providing the number of detained people and staff who have tested positive for COVID-19 on its website. The jail is the nation’s largest-known source of COVID-19 infections according to the New York Times.

Legislative Branch-Led Change

NEW HB 4613, introduced by Rep. Robyn Gabel, would amend the Children and Family Services Act, to study the availability of youth services to reduce the use of youth detention, and permit pretrial detention only when: the youth is 13 years of age or older; there is probable cause to believe the youth is delinquent, and secure custody is a matter of “immediate and urgent necessity in light of a serious threat to the physical safety of a person or persons”; or to secure the pres- ence of the youth at the next hearing, as evidenced by a demonstrable record of willful failure to appear within the last 12 months.

Executive Branch-Led Change

Governor J.B. Pritzker made the elimination of cash bail in the state one of his criminal justice priorities. The Illinois General Assembly held a hearing on the issue in February.

Community & Grassroots Action

NEW The Illinois Network for Pretrial Justice hosted a teach-in about the Pretrial Fairness Act, which would outlaw money bail, allow judges to issue a notice, rather than a warrant, for nonappearance in court, and limit pretrial detention.

NEW Data from the Juvenile Monitoring Information System (JMIS), which reflects information from 16 juvenile detention centers in Illinois, revealed that approximately 50 children under the age of 13 have been held before trial so far in 2020. Additionally, for the month of July, Black children made up 63% of admissions.

NEW “Protecting Public Health through Decarceration: Holding Cook County’s Criminal Courts Accountable During the Covid-19 Pandemic” documents the extent of net-widening during the pandemic. As of March 17, the jail population at Cook County was 5,588, and approximately 2,400 people were on electronic moni- toring. The population dropped and then began to rise again; as of September 4, the jail population was over 5,000, but the number of people on electronic monitor- ing was 3,365 (as of August). Ninety-one percent of people on EM were either Black or Latinx.

More than 200 advocates delivered quart-sized jars of gummi bears to legislators in the state capitol, calling for the end of the use of money bail. Each jar held 250 gummi bears, symbolizing the 267,421 people held before trial in the state every year. The Illinois Network for Pretrial Justice and the Coalition to End Money Bond helped organize the protest.


Number of unique annual jail admissions


Average daily jail population


Unique jail admissions per 100K residents

*Statistics from Prison Policy Initiative
Spread the word