(The Center Square) – Gov. J.B. Pritzker has signed an executive order to allow medically vulnerable people out of Illinois’ prisons during the COVID-19 emergency.
Public health officials have reported at least two deaths at Stateville Correctional Center. About 100 other inmates and staff members at the facility have tested positive for COVID-19.
“We have National Guardsmen who have set up medical tents in their gym as I understand so that they can separate people who have COVID from people who don’t,” Pritzker said Monday. “But we are relying on experts to tell us how best to deal with this in incarcerated populations.”
He later signed an executive order allowing furloughs for medically vulnerable prisoners during the emergency.
The order suspends language in state law that says to allow for prisoners to be furloughed for the duration of the governor’s emergency order.
“[F]urloughs for medical, psychiatric or psychological purposes shall be allowed at the [Illinois Department of Corrections] Director’s discretion and consistent with the guidance of the IDOC Acting Medical Director,” according to the order.
Jennifer Vollen-Katz, executive director of prison watchdog group John Howard Association, said the next step is for Illinois Department of Corrections officials to identify those who are medically vulnerable.
“And they need to act swiftly to get people out the door as quickly as possible,” she said. “This is really a game of inches as more people get infected. You need to get as many people, and hopefully people that have not yet been exposed, out the door quickly.”
Vollen-Katz said people who were furloughed would be monitored.
“To use a Monopoly reference, this isn’t a get-out-of-jail-free card,” she said. “This is an opportunity to place people at home, in settings where they are welcome, where they have a device on their ankle. These people will be monitored. This isn’t just opening the doors to let people out.”