Loevy + Loevy won COVID-19 protections for detainees in Cook County Jail

Loevy + Loevy, along with the Chicago Community Bond Fund, MacArthur Justice Center, and Civil Rights Corps, won an injunctive case filed in April 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic to protect detainees at the Cook County Jail. Representing people incarcerated in Cook County Jail, the lawsuit challenged the unsafe conditions inside the jail during the pandemic, arguing that the jail’s cramped and unsanitary conditions put the lives of incarcerated people at an extreme risk of contracting and dying from the COVID-19 virus. The case forced Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart to take protective measures for those detained in jail, including: enforcing social distancing; maintaining prompt COVID-19 testing; providing face marks to detainees; providing sanitation supplies; and more. This was one of the only successful COVID-19 legal injunctions in the country to survive appellate review.

An uncontrolled outbreak of the virus started with three cases in Cook County Jail on March 23, 2020. By April 3, 210 detainees were infected with COVID-19—40 times the infection rate in Cook County. The lawsuit came after the release of an open letter to Cook County officials, endorsed by more than 100 community, policy, and legal organizations, demanding the mass release of people from the jail in response to the pandemic.

Although 10 people eventually died from COVID-19 while in the custody of Cook County Jail and hundreds contracted the virus, the injunction resulting from this lawsuit has unquestionably saved lives. Mays v. Dart also resulted in policy changes that will remain in place to protect detainees against future pandemics. Read more about the COVID-19 crisis that unfolded inside Cook County Jail in “What Went Wrong at Cook County Jail?” by Kiran Misra in South Side Weekly

Learn more about Mays v. Dart from our co-counsel MacArthur Justice Center and the Civil Rights Corps.

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