CHICAGO — Illinois Republicans renewed demands Monday for more information on inmates who have been released because of the coronavirus pandemic, claiming some have violent criminal histories and could threaten public safety.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat, signed an order earlier this month allowing furloughs for elderly inmates or those with health conditions, who are considered “medically vulnerable” to contracting and spreading COVID-19. Roughly 36,000 people are incarcerated in Illinois facilities and civil rights advocates have raised concerns about inmate welfare.
House Republicans hosted a video news conference Monday, saying their requests for information have been ignored, including details on how many have been freed and how the Illinois Department of Corrections determines who gets released.
“Our concern is that the governor and IDOC are using this pandemic as a way to push their political agenda of releasing inmates, rather than actually looking out for the public safety,” said Rep. Avery Bourne of Morrisonville.
State officials have not been specific on the numbers.
In response to an Associated Press public records request for the names of inmates released because of the pandemic, the department sent a document with all inmates released since March 1. The list of roughly 3,900 inmates doesn’t include the reasons for their release.
Pritzker has granted at least 17 petitions for clemency since mid-March, including for seven inmates convicted of murder, according to the Chicago Tribune. Pritzker’s office didn’t offer the newspaper information on the governor’s reasoning.
The Associated Press left messages Monday for the spokeswomen for Pritzker and the IDOC.
There have been coronavirus outbreaks at the state’s correctional facilities. State data show 153 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19, with the vast majority at Stateville Correction Center in Crest Hill, where there have been 10 deaths. Overall, 147 corrections employees have also tested positive, with 74 at Stateville.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or modest symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe life-threatening illness, including pneumonia.
Illinois officials reported 50 new deaths related to COVID-19 Monday, bringing the total statewide death toll to 1,983. The Illinois Department of Public Health also reported 1,980 new cases, for a total of 45,883 in Illinois.
Associated Press writer John O’Connor in Springfield contributed to this report.
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