Saturday, March 20, 2021

Immigrant Detainees in McHenry County Jail Exposes Conditions

The Coalition to Cancel the ICE Contract in McHenry County has obtained a letter from two immigrant detainees in McHenry County Jail.  The letter, sent in mid-March, describes harsh conditions in the Federal detention facility and shocking charges that both inmates and the public have been deceived about Covid-19 infections, prevention, and treatments.

The inmates, whose identities are not being revealed to protect them from possible retribution by Jail authorities, managed to get the letter out to allies and supporters of the prisoners with an appeal that it be made public to the press and public officials.


The letter from two immigrant detainees in McHenry County Jail.       

The Coalition to Cancel the ICE Contract in McHenry County, which represents 27 immigrant advocacy groups, social justice groups, organizations, non-profits, and congregations throughout Illinois, seeks justice for all undocumented Immigrants by demanding County Board members cancel the month-to-month contract it has maintained for over a decade. We continue to urge the Board to release the numbers, as the agreement has been operating without clear financial knowledge of costs and revenue for years. Our community understands that having an ICE detention center terrorizes those who live under its shadow of fear and oppression.

The letter writers complained of “concentration camp” like conditions currently including isolation in Coronavirus lock down 47 hours over two days,  poor food—two servings of bread and ham daily—inability to access commissary accounts for additional food and hygiene products, and baring communications with lawyers.  Jail visitations by the Interfaith Community for Detained Immigrants (ICDI) have been curtailed for a year depriving the detainees of spiritual support and assistance.

Most alarming, the detainees outline systematic deception to the inmates and public about health conditions in the Jail and Covid-19 infection rates.  Their letter states:

Now about the infections.  The first day an official let us know that in the McHenry County Jail there are 40 infected persons and we are afraid the virus will spread through the jail.

The nurses check the temperatures of some of the inmates but not others and this worries us.  We don’t know the reason some are checked and others aren’t.  Now they are checking us with the most economical Covid-19 test.  And thanks be to God we tested negative.  But in spite of this we are afraid of contracting the virus.

Two days ago in the McHenry County Jail notice, they said that there are only 21 sick persons, but that is a lie because here we know that there are 40 sick people and we know it from the officials that work here in our block.

And you are able to prove this because in the Feb. 2nd Sun Times newspaper there was an article on page 14 that says that there are 6 infected people, but there are 12 total.  I saw them when the 12 people were in quarantine because I am the worker and I distribute food to them.  The county is lying and not telling the truth.

The detainees hope that the media will investigate and demand answers about the allegations and that public officials will take action.

The detainees hope that supporters like these who gathered for a vigil at the Jail in 2018 will contact law makers, public officials, and McHenry County Board members to end the contract leasing space as the Federal detention facility.

The Coalition is sharing the letter today with Illinois Congress persons Lauren Underwood, Sean Casten, Raja Krishnamoorth, Jan Schakowsky, and Chuy Garcia as well as Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, Governor J. B Pritzker, local state representatives and senators, and members of the McHenry County Board.  


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