To Whom It May Concern:
I am writing a letter in response to the Cook County Jail’s new visitation policy. This newly adopted policy, which can be found here, states that all visitors of inmates being held at the Cook County Department of Corrections are required to complete an application that involves a background check of the visiting person, which can take up to three days. The application that must be completed is only available online; there is no other way to apply.
A few issues arise with this policy: it implies that everyone has access to computers and the Internet; the application is only available in English, effectively shutting out everyone who isn’t fluent. The mandatory background check is also said to take 3 days for completion.
The individuals being held by Cook County Department of Corrections have families, friends, and loved ones who need and would appreciate their support systems in these strenuous times. Creating barriers such as this new visitation policy is heartless.
I have personally experienced this new policy implemented by the Cook County Department of Corrections. I am a working professional; I was able to access the application online for both my partner and myself. When we arrived to the Cook County Department of Corrections, and were turned away, I was grief –stricken. The corrections officers informed us that applications were taking nearly a week to complete the process and to call the social worker before attempting to visit again. We asked about the people who may not have access to computers or speak English “like my parents”, and an Officer’s aloof response was, “Well there is the library.” On our way out we noticed the waiting room was near empty, quite the contrast to our previous visits.
We walked away with feelings of sadness, that we were unable to visit our loved one and of anger, but with no outlet. Seeing the empty visiting room made us realize the injustice that was happening in our county. So we ask: Is this necessary protocol? If so, is the Cook County Department of Corrections upholding their end of the arrangement? Are applications being processed in a timely fashion? Is this set of rules conveniently omitting people who do not have access to a computer, the Internet and are not only English speaking? Are loved ones even aware of the new procedure for visitation? Are our inmates suffering another kind of punishment before proven blameworthy? What is the main intention of this policy, is it to isolate a person from any humane experience and deprive them from communicating with their external support systems? Why? This whole experience validated that our loved ones in the Cook County Jail are not treated as human beings but as property items. Is this justice?
I am challenging this protocol, asking if this procedure is being examined for need and accessibility; furthermore that the Cook County Department of Corrections be held accountable for invoking a punishment before culpability has been established.
Dulce M Quintero