Yesterday, a state representative released the names of prisoners in Illinois granted commutation recently as part of an ongoing effort to reduce the population of Illinois prisons, which are experiencing outbreaks of the virus which causes COVID-19.  

The following statement can be attributed to Colleen Connell, Executive Director of the ACLU of Illinois: 

“It is sad to see an elected official playing politics with public health when responding to efforts to reduce the likelihood of further spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 inside Illinois prisons. Illinois prisoners are dying because they are held in conditions that often are unsanitary and rarely allow for social distancing. 

Releasing prisoners from these settings improves safety for other detainees, people who work in the corrections system as guards and administrators and also helps protect the communities where Illinois prisons are located. The people who are being released have served time – some of them years. The release of these names is not another opportunity to create faux outrage and perpetuate a criminal legal system that too often confuses being tough with being smart.  

Our first and foremost priority right now should be to address the pandemic that has taken the life of nearly 1,000 Illinois residents, and brought grief and fear to thousands of others. It is not the time to posture about imagined dangers of medically-vulnerable people being released from our overcrowded state prison system. We can be better.”