ILLINOIS (WFIE) - Illinois Governor JB Pritzker is working to cut down on the spread of COVID-19 throughout the state’s department of corrections. He says one prisoner has died to those complications.
Part of the administration’s plan includes releasing some inmates who fit certain criteria.
Governor Pritzker says it’s a balancing act, trying to free up as much room in prison as possible while making sure they’re not releasing those who may pose a community risk.
“DOC has been reviewing the case files of as many low-risk offenders as possible for early release during this crisis," Governor Pritzker said during his Tuesday press conference.
He says the department of corrections is at its smallest population since 1995 with just under 37,000 inmates.
Pritzker says there are 32 positive COVID-19 cases of those who are in custody. An additional 18 staff members at various facilities have also been diagnosed, and one inmate has died.
“An incarcerated person is a person, and my administration will not be in the business of claiming one life is more than another," Pritzker said.
To lessen the chances of COVID-19 taking out in a prison, Pritzker is looking closer at low-level offenders at the end of their sentences and also pregnant prisoners.
He says some of them may qualify for early releases.
“All have been thoroughly vetted to make sure there are no histories of violence and particularly domestic violence, and all had homes to return to," Pritzker said.
He signed an executive order stopping the daily flow of convicted transfers from county jails into Illinois Department of Corrections facilities, but we’re told the director does have the discretion to accept any when necessary.
“Every step we take with regard to our prison population needs to solve an existing problem, not create a new one," Pritzker said.
As for prison staff, we’re learning all department of corrections staff on duty must wear personal protective equipment and the department has opened parts of facilities normally closed to allow greater social distancing.
The Illinois governor also extended his statewide stay-at-home order for three weeks as the nation struggles to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday set a new deadline of April 30 for keeping people inside except for essential needs and jobs.
The order will also suspend on-site learning in K-12 schools through the month of April.
So far, the state has reported nearly 6,000 infections and 99 deaths from the coronavirus.
Pritzker initially closed schools and restaurants and bars on March 13, then issued the stay-at-home order a week later. The period was to end April 7, but experts have said the rising number of cases in Illinois won’t have reached its peak by then.