To the editor: As 115th District state representative, I have been frustrated with recent policy decisions made by the Illinois Department of Corrections and the Pritzker Administration. Daily news reports are detailing multiple IDOC inmates and staff members are contracting COVID-19 and occupying hospital bed space in community hospitals.
I warned Illinois Corrections officials a month ago that they should implement lockdown at state corrections facilities. Thankfully, IDOC did finally take the step to lockdown its facilities two weeks ago.
I strongly believe that an earlier lockdown would have helped stop the spread of COVID-19 in corrections facilities and saved vital community hospital bed space.
Instead, IDOC continued transfers and permitted offenders to move regularly within facilities. This included yard time, gym time and shopping at prison commissaries. It took well over a week after the governor issued a "stay-at-home" order for the general public before the DOC lockdown was ordered.
In the governor's daily briefing on March 31, he used language that included threats to any hospital that does not accept an infected offender, and he threatened medical staff that would refuse to treat them.
Instead of Gov. Pritzker excoriating hospitals and medical professionals, he should be explaining why his administration waited so long after his "stay-at-home" order to stop transfers and issue lockdown orders at DOC.
I am also very concerned that Gov. Pritzker will use the COVID-19 crisis to enact a mass-release policy for DOC inmates. DOC is not testing inmates for COVID-19 in large numbers. The lack of data available regarding the health of DOC inmates means a mass-release of inmates would create an immediate health danger to every community in Illinois.
I believe the single most dangerous thing Gov. Pritzker could do during this pandemic is to allow the mass release of DOC inmates.
I urge the governor, his administration, and all DOC officials to honor the lockdown currently in place and keep it in place until the COVID-19 outbreak is under control. Otherwise, we will be faced with more instances where COVID-19 positive inmates are hospitalized in a bed where a law-abiding citizen would otherwise be receiving health care.
That is unacceptable to me.
Also, Gov. Pritzker, please spend a little more time protecting the staff and offenders at Illinois correctional facilities, and less time threatening the medical professionals that are sacrificing themselves to continue saving lives!
State Rep. Terry Bryant