Open Letter to Winnebago County Jail Regarding COVID-19 : Protect Public Health

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Open letter to the Winnebago County Jail,

Coronavirus is here and increasing every day. Other jurisdictions are acting to protect those in their jails from unnecessary risk. Jails and prisons are known to quickly spread contagious diseases due to the nature of confinement, and our county jail is understaffed. Judges and authorities can help the Winnebago County Board and Jail determine who can safely be released and under what conditions. Releasing people detained in WCJ is the humane thing to do. Many in the Winnebago County Jail have not been convicted, adjudicated, or are sitting there simply because they cannot raise the funds to bail out.

The Winnebago County Jail needs to IMMEDIATELY: 

1. Release anyone incarcerated in Winnebago County Jail on a self-recognizance or reduced bond (and not onto electronic monitoring unless mandated by a judge). Anyone with a set bond is already cleared for release pretrial. Keeping them incarcerated just because they can’t afford their set bond is deeply unfair and unethical, especially during this pandemic.

2. Release at-risk people detained in the jail who pose little social threat due to their physical and/or medical condition, and work to release as soon as possible all remaining non-violent offenders safely.

3. Provide single-cells any remaining people detained inside of Winnebago County Jail to improve their chances of survival in this crisis.

4. Freely provide personal hygiene, cleaning, and sanitation supplies NOW to anyone kept incarcerated. Hand sanitizer and other essential preventative products must be permitted and should not be considered “contraband.” Health care access for anyone remaining in Winnebago County Jail must be liberally provided, unfettered and fee free.  All people who are incarcerated should be promptly notified of their test results.

If courts remain open, appearances at all non-essential criminal court dates must be waived to avoid unnecessary travel and social contact. All in-person pretrial check-ins or other mandated appearances (such as drug testing) should also be waived or done by phone). Cancellation of court dates should not delay anyone’s release from Winnebago County Jail.

Coronavirus is an immediate safety issue and threat to our loved ones and community members detained in WCJ as well as it’s staff, and we, the undersigned, demand that the Winnebago County Jail take these actions now to protect them: