A federal judge is declining to order the immediate release of thousands of inmates in Illinois due to concerns over potential exposure to coronavirus.
Judge Robert Dow says civil rights advocates who filed suit against the state Department of Corrections and Gov. J.B. Pritzker did not show that a mass release was the only reasonable response.
“Plaintiffs are correct in asserting that the issue of inmate health and safety is deserving of the highest degree of attention,” Dow wrote. “And the record here shows that the authorities in this state are doing just that.”
The 10 inmates named in the lawsuit – convicted on a range of felonies including murder – argued that keeping them incarcerated in the face of a pandemic amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.
Although Dow is keeping the case open – and encouraged state officials to work their hardest to preserve the health of prisoners – he refused to order the state to release, by his estimate, “at least 12,000 inmates, almost one-third of the prison population in Illinois.”