Prisoner advocate demand to end lockdowns in Illinois prisons

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Zana Marino, an End Illinois Prison Lockdown Coalition member, holds a list of demands for Gov. J.B. Pritzker outside the James R. Thompson Center in the Loop, Friday morning, March 9, 2021.
Zana Marino, an End Illinois Prison Lockdown Coalition member, holds a list of demands for Gov. J.B. Pritzker outside the James R. Thompson Center in the Loop, Friday morning, March 9, 2021, where they held a press conference demanding Pritzker to sign clemency petitions, end prison lockdowns, allow visits, improve COVID-19 safety precautions and release elderly, at-risk prisoners. | Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

The End Illinois Prison Lockdown Coalition also celebrated meeting two of its major goals this Friday: getting the Criminal Justice Omnibus Bill passed and ensuring prisoners can get COVID-19 vaccines.

Prison reform advocates Friday called on the Illinois Department of Corrections and Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office to lift “tortuous” lockdowns now that inmates and corrections workers are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Since the prison populations is part of the state’s second vaccination phase, which began January 25, family visits can soon be restored and the governor can sign clemency petitions, members of The End Illinois Prison Lockdown Coalition said outside the Thompson Center, 100 W. Randolph St.

Thirteen prisons throughout the state are currently under full lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic and 32 are under administrative quarantine.

As of Friday, there are 123 inmates who currently tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the IDOC’s website.

Friday’s demonstration came weeks after Pritzker signed the Criminal Justice Omnibus Bill late last month. The bill includes policing, prison and sentencing reforms — all necessary steps needed in reforming Illinois prisons, coalition members said.

“We believe that [Pritzker] ought to continue to be revolutionized in his agenda and take very bold steps despite the fact that critics may have a problem with it,” former inmate and police torture survivor Kilroy Watkins said while calling for Pritzker to end the lockdowns.

Watkins Friday read testimonies from inmates, including one who said he and his fellow inmates were currently quarantined in their cell for “23 hours a day most days.”

Katrina Phidd, the communications and digital strategy manager at Chicago Votes, speaks outside the James R. Thompson Center in the Loop, Friday morning, March 9, 2021, where members of End Illinois Prison Lockdown Coalition held a press conference demanding Gov. J.B. Pritzker to sign clemency petitions, end prison lockdowns, allow visits, improve COVID-19 safety precautions and release elderly, at-risk prisoners.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times
Katrina Phidd, the communications and digital strategy manager at Chicago Votes, speaks outside the James R. Thompson Center in the Loop, Friday morning, March 9, 2021, where members of End Illinois Prison Lockdown Coalition held a press conference demanding Gov. J.B. Pritzker to sign clemency petitions, end prison lockdowns, allow visits, improve COVID-19 safety precautions and release elderly, at-risk prisoners.

The coalition on Friday wrote their list of demands on a banner they displayed outside the Thompson Center.

Among its demands was for the upgrading of the ventilation systems in Illinois prisons and for the Illinois Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission to receive more state funding.

“The battle to ensure people in prisons are prioritized in vaccine distributions was won,” said, Katrina Phidd, a spokeswoman and digital strategy manager for Chicago Votes,

“However, IDOC is still implementing really inconsistent and harmful responses. We would just like Gov. Pritzker to use his power to oversee IDOC, sign clemency petitions and allow for a mass release (from lockdowns).”

Mark Clements, a police torture survivor and a Chicago Torture Justice Center community organizer, speaks outside the James R. Thompson Center in the Loop, Friday morning, March 9, 2021, where members of End Illinois Prison Lockdown Coalition held a press conference demanding Gov. J.B. Pritzker to sign clemency petitions, end prison lockdowns, allow visits, improve COVID-19 safety precautions and release elderly, at-risk prisoners.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times
Mark Clements, a police torture survivor and a Chicago Torture Justice Center community organizer, speaks outside the James R. Thompson Center in the Loop, Friday morning, March 9, 2021, where members of End Illinois Prison Lockdown Coalition held a press conference demanding Gov. J.B. Pritzker to sign clemency petitions, end prison lockdowns, allow visits, improve COVID-19 safety precautions and release elderly, at-risk prisoners.

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March 12, 2021 at 04:13PM

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