As prisons and jails across the country release inmates over concerns about the spread of the coronavirus, officials in Chicago are releasing potentially dangerous criminals and are hiding information about them from the public and from police, according to a report.
The Washington Times reported on Sunday that Cook County, Illinois, has released hundreds of inmates from Chicago jails and is blocking information about their identities and the crimes they are accused of committing.
“The prosecutors and public defenders, who handle the cases in special COVID-19 court hearings, keep a close hold on the information,” the newspaper reported.
Not only is the public being kept out of the loop regarding the potentially dangerous criminals back walking the streets, but so are law enforcement officials.
Kevin Graham, the president of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police, told The Washington Times that the Chicago Police Department has been given no information about the releases.
“The greatest fear people have is the fear of the unknown,” Graham said.
“We don’t know what is occurring, we don’t know why people are being released, we don’t know their offenses, and we don’t know if these people pose a danger to society,” the FOP leader added.
Inmates are being released from jails and prisons nationwide as public health officials reach consensus that the close quarters of jails and penal institutions are breeding rounds for the virus.
Politico reported on Saturday that the Bureau of Prisons is releasing some inmates early but excluding potentially dangerous offenders, such as those convicted of violent crimes or child pornography-related crimes.
State prisons and local jails across the country are also releasing some inmates, but Cook County is so far the only jurisdiction reported to be blocking information about inmates from police or the public.
The news that Chicago is releasing potentially dangerous criminals back into society without making information about them available to the public is the latest move by public officials that calls into question the city’s Democratic leadership.
WBUR-FM reported that Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot does not have the authority to order the release of inmates from the Cook County Jail, but she is working closely with county officials to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Last week, Lightfoot faced condemnation for getting a haircut as salons and barber shops in the city are closed in response to stay-at-home orders.
NBC News reported that the mayor defended her grooming decision, saying, “I’m the public face of this city. I’m on national media and I’m out in the public eye.”
Lightfoot is reportedly also closely monitoring the apparent racial disparities of those who are contracting and dying of the coronavirus in Chicago.
She appeared on CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday and said the virus is affecting her city’s black citizens disproportionately.
“The kind of things that we’ve been talking about for a long time, that plague black Chicago, that lead to life expectancy gaps, this virus attacks those underlying conditions with a vengeance,” she said.
WBUR reported that Lightfoot has ordered all facilities and health care providers that conduct COVID-19 tests to report demographic information.
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