Rep. Cabello: Illinois must fight lawsuit seeking to release prisoners during COVID-19 pandemic

The Coronavirus pandemic is not only a threat to our health and economy, but now is becoming a threat to our public safety and criminal justice system. A group of “civil rights” lawyers has filed a class action lawsuit demanding that prisoners “… who are elderly and medically vulnerable, and those with pathways to release, must be released now.” The lawsuit is directed at Governor J.B. Pritzker and Rob Jeffreys, the Director of the Illinois Department of Corrections. The Governor needs to fight this lawsuit.

People go to jail for a reason and that is to serve a sentence that was determined in a courtroom. Those “sentences” are the part of our criminal justice system where a punishment for a crime is handed out publicly so that others in our society who may be thinking about committing a crime will be deterred because they know the system will punish them. Deterrence of crime is a public safety issue and anything that compromises our system of justice is a threat to public safety.

The lawyers who filed the lawsuit should have asked that the state take these “medically vulnerable” individuals to some of the empty hotels where they can wait out the pandemic while serving their sentence. After all, I am sure the lawyers think that these folks are good people or they would not advocate for them to be released into society. 

The skeptic in me, however, believes that these lawyers are just using this crisis as another excuse to empty out the jails. There are activists out there who don’t think anyone should be in jail and they have a whole bag full of excuses for the people who commit crimes. As a police officer I always felt more concerned for victims and how their lives are impacted by those in our society who are so selfish that they are willing to upend the lives of others in exchange for their interests. The Governor needs to fight this all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary and not spend the rest of his term in office using some lawsuit as an excuse for doing something he probably wants to do anyway. In New York they are reporting stories almost every day about criminals who were let out of prison using the Coronavirus threat who have already re-committed crimes. Don’t do that to the people of Illinois.