A group of protesters marches towards the Pulaski County Detention Center on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020, in Ullin, IL. The facility is operated by ICE and has 78 confirmed cases of COVID-19. The protest was put on by the Southern Illinois Immigrant Rights Project and Midwest Council for Civil Rights. The goal was to demand health inspections for inmates. (Jared Treece | @bisalo)
A group of protesters marches towards the Pulaski County Detention Center on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020, in Ullin, IL. The facility is operated by ICE and has 78 confirmed cases of COVID-19. The protest was put on by the Southern Illinois Immigrant Rights Project and Midwest Council for Civil Rights. The goal was to demand health inspections for inmates.

Jared Treece | @bisalo

Protesters gather outside Pulaski County Detention Center after reports of poor living conditions for detainees

October 3, 2020

American prisons and detention facilities have been criticized recently for their poor response to COVID-19. 

In Illinois alone, nearly 2,000 prisoners are reported to have contracted the virus.

The Pulaski County Board of Commissioners released a statement to the community regarding an outbreak of COVID-19 at the detention center back on April 7, leading to argument that health concerns were not being addressed within the center.

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The last updated report done by the National Commission on Correctional Health Care reviewing the conditions in the Pulaski County Detention Center was conducted in January, 2017.

The Southern Illinois Immigrant Rights Project (SIIRP) and the Midwest Council for Civil Rights organized a rally to protest the poor living conditions at the Pulaski County Detention Center in Ullin, Illinois on Saturday.

The detention center currently acts as a holding facility for individuals detained by ICE officers.

According to Michelle Peeks, one of SIIRP organizers, the facilities are unsafe, with detainees not being given access to masks, and getting placed within close proximity to one another. 

At 11 a.m., protesters gathered outside of the detention center where they were met by two security guards, and told not to get closer to the facility.

The guards refused to make comments about the event or disclose any information.

The rally began with chants led by Michelle Peek who said, “Power to the people, no one is illegal,” and “Say it once, say it twice, we will not put up with ICE.”

Around 45 protesters attended the event. Once settled in, a series of speakers addressed the group.

One of these speakers, Dr. Ana Migone, a Peruvian immigrant, spoke about the moral necessity to raise awareness when issues of human rights are at stake.

“Indifference is the opposite of love,” Migone said.

Martha Ruiz, a graduate of SIU, also spoke to the group of protesters and led in chants “Ni uno mas,” meaning: “Not one more.”

“Not one more person needs to be in this place, not one more person needs to die in this place,” Ruiz said.

Chastitee Mays, a member of the Southern Illinois Unity Coalition, came to the event as a show of solidarity with the protesters.

“We’re here to put a spotlight on what is happening,” Mays said. “It’s time  for all of us to stand up and make the changes that need to happen.”

The rally went on for another two hours following the same pattern of chants and speeches by protesters.

Alex Grabowska, a Carbondale resident who works at SIU, said his reason for attendance had to do with the lack of health care being provided to the individuals being detained.

“It is the bare minimum to make sure these facilities are inspected for health measures; the fact that it’s not is terrible and embarrassing,” Grabowska said.

At the end of the rally one of the organizers, Mckenzie Eston announced the group would be returning soon.

Staff reporter George Wiebe can be reached at [email protected]

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