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Lawsuit Asking For Release Of Prisoners At Risk For COVID-19

CHICAGO (CBS) -- There is call to release prison inmates most at risk for the coronavirus.

Civil rights attorneys and community activists filed three cases Thursday morning.

CBS 2's Mugo Odigwe explains one is against the Illinois Department of Corrections and Governor JB Prizker.

The argument behind the three cases is that not releasing certain prisoners before they fall victim to the coronavirus means Illinois leaders are putting prisoners, prison staff and the public at risk.

The group of civil right lawyers and community advocates behind the complaints said prison is an easy place to get COVID-19 because of its tightly packed population and confined spaces.

They argued that one prisoner is already dead and seven are on life support. That's why they want the most vulnerable prisoners released.

There's also the issue of prison staff. The group said staff exposed to the virus can easily spread it in the community.

CBS 2 Investigators have been tracking the effect of the coronavirus in the Cook County Jail. COVID-19 cases are multiplying in the jail.

Hundred have been released due to coronoavirus concerns. In fact, the jail now houses 830 fewer detainees since the beginning of the stay-at-home order.

But deciding which inmates to release put judges in a difficult position. Because they basically have to weigh serious health concerns versus concerns about public safety.

The cases up for consideration range from low level felonies to violent habitual offenders. At last check, a total of 167 detainees have tested positive for COVID-19.

And that number is growing by the day.

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