The COVID-19 pandemic impacts every one of us, across Illinois and the entire United State. Beyond the anxiety about the health and well-being of ourselves and our family and friends, the pandemic creates anxiety and hardship for millions. This hardship creates special, urgent issues for the most vulnerable in our state, including those who are detained in prison, jail or immigration detention, communities of color and children under the care of DCFS.
Throughout this time, all actions (and restrictions) instituted by government actions should be based in science and public health, not politics or ideology. This public health approach is especially critical in the instances where they impact the most vulnerable, especially those susceptible to exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19.
ACCESS TO THE VACCINE
As Illinois prepares for distribution of limited supplies of COVID-19 vaccine, the manner in which particular groups of individuals are given priority access to vaccination must recognize and protect the rights and civil liberties of Illinois’ citizens. The ACLU of Illinois developed a list of specific requests for refinements to Illinois’ current Plan for vaccine distribution to assure it is carried out in an equitable and efficient manner.
The COVID-19 pandemic raises concerns on bias in the provision of care in hospitals, especially bias against persons with physical and mental disabilities.
- We joined a collation of advocacy groups in sending a letter to State officials raising these concerns. Our advocacy led Governor Pritzker to issue an Executive Order making clear that the State of Illinois opposes discrimination – whether based on disability, race, or other protected characteristics – in the provision of healthcare.
HOMELESSNESS AND POVERTY
The economic hardships caused by the pandemic falls must heavily on those experiencing poverty and homelessness. Government should take steps to alleviate fines, fees and other actions that affect these people do not add to hardships during this moment.
- The ACLU of Illinois joined a host of organizations across the country to sign a a letter to the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators urging members to stop suspending or refusing to renew driver’s licenses for reasons other than unsafe driving.
- Joining with our allies in this work the ACLU of Illinois signed a letter to the Chicago Department of Public Health asking for a moratorium on sweeps of homeless encampments.
Immigrants and newcomers detained in local jails in our state, especially those with pre-existing conditions that make them susceptible to COVID-19, should be released consistent with public health guidelines.
- The ACLU of Illinois working with our national ACLU colleagues and allies has advocated, or taken legal action in the three main ICE detention centers in Illinois - Kankakee County Jail, McHenry County Jail, and Pulaski County jail - seeking release of those people being held on civil immigration charges who are medically vulnerable to COVID-19.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, law enforcement authorities across Illinois have sought to pierce the shield of privacy around personal medical information, asking for lists of the address and names of all person who have tested positive for the virus. Public health experts agree that these lists will give law enforcement a false sense of security, because of the large number of people who have not been tested and the fact that people who are asymptomatic often are the most contagious. These experts also argue that the release of test results will discourage many from seeking the testing and treatment that is crucial to ending the pandemic. We have taken action in a number of counties across the state.
Illinois was previously under a “shelter in place” order. Enforcement of these orders must not include unreasonable or discriminatory enforcement, must not set an unnecessary curfew and should remain in force only as long as is required to advance public health.
- The ACLU of Illinois issued an open letter to law enforcement in Illinois, encouraging them to enforce the law – and the stay home order – in a way consistent with public health.
- The ACLU of Illinois issued a statement opposing the use of checkpoints by the Chicago Police Department as part of enforcement of the stay at home order.
PRISONS AND JAILS
Those people detained – whether before trial in county jails, Illinois prisons or juvenile facilities –are vulnerable to COVID-19. Already there have been dangerous outbreaks in these institutions, owing largely to the crowded and often unsanitary conditions. Conditions in many jails and prisons – in the best of times – make them a dangerous place to house people; this is especially true during a pandemic.
- The ACLU of Illinois has issued a set of talking points, outlining our views on detention in the time of COVID-19.
- The ACLU of Illinois co-signed an amicus brief in support of a petition filed by the Office of Cook County Public Defender seeking the release of people from the County Jail.
- After Governor Pritzker issued an executive order that limited entries into Illinois Department of Corrections, we joined with our partners in the Lippert litigation – challenging the adequacy of health care in Illinois prisons – to applaud this action.
- You can learn more about our work to assure adequate health care in prisons in our Lippert and Monroe cases
- If you have information about COVID-19 related conditions in detention, we want to hear about it. You can reach our hotline by email at email@example.com or by voice mailbox or text at 312-869-9561.
The Government is actively seeking innovative and effective ways to help decrease the spread of COVID-19. Among the tools being considered are methods of contact tracing, which work backwards from someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus infection to identify others who may have been exposed. Governor Pritzker is among a growing list of government officials investing in contact tracing methods. Although these methods can be effective in decreasing the spread of disease, they also risk infringing upon our privacy rights. We've identified principles and best practices to ensure that any contact tracing system rolled out in IL is privacy-protective.
REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH CARE
Abortion care is essential and should not be can be accessed despite the growing number of "shelter in place" directives. Illinois Governor JB Pritzker recognized this reality by including reproductive health care explicitly in his stay home order.
- We continue to operate the Judicial Bypass Project, providing representation to minors seeking abortion care who cannot notify a designated family member.
- The ACLU sent a letter to the Illinois Supreme Court asking for the appointment of a single judge in Illinois to hear bypass hearings for youth unable to notify a designated family member under the Illinois Parental Notice of Abortion Act.