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Photo Goes Viral of Cook County Jail Inmates Shoveling Snow in Orange Jumpsuits


After a dozen days of snow hit Chicago and temperatures began their swift descent to below zero, a photo of inmates shoveling snow outside Cook County Jail with what the poster said was “no real winter gear” went viral.

Now, the sheriff’s office is trying to clean up the backlash — and set the record straight — and activists are pushing for greater awareness of challenges faced by incarcerated people during dangerous weather.

“The situation was entirely and intentionally misrepresented,” said Cara Smith, chief spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office.

On Monday, the photo was posted to the La Villita community Facebook page with the caption: “They got the inmates cleaning with no real winter gear.”

Grace said she later learned the inmates were working under the RENEW program. As part of RENEW, a vocational program for essentially nonviolent offenders, detainees spend six months in custody and then eight months out in the community doing demolition work to address blight in communities like Ford Heights and Robbins, said Smith.

The people in the photo were provided with insulated jumpsuits from the office, along with gloves, hats and boots, Smith said. There was also a van on-site for warming.

“And we work very hard to get these young men jobs when they graduate from the program,” Smith said. “I think our track record for caring about the people that are in custody is pretty solid, and we take that responsibility very seriously.”

Workers in RENEW, along with workers in the Sheriff’s Work Alternative Program, do not work if temperatures dip below 20 degrees, Smith said.

But Grace questioned how shoveling plays into the program.

“I don’t think that anyone is seriously suggesting that shoveling snow is a skilled form of labor that’s going to lead to job opportunities upon release,” she said.

Grace said she was glad the photo sparked a public conversation about safety issues faced by those incarcerated and how to fairly compensate people.

Smith said the workers were paid “nominally” — $2 for the work assignment — but that’s “not really the purpose of the program.”

Nadine Ashford, 68, of Ford Heights, said she went to the jail Sunday to visit a family member and was struck by how cold it was in the bathroom and the waiting area. Ashford said her family member had complained about insufficient heating for weeks. She said she has made multiple calls to the jail about heating issues.

The highs Tuesday were expected to hover near zero degrees in much of the Chicago area, with winds of 15 to 25 mph resulting in wind chills as low as 30 degrees below zero during the day and 55 below Tuesday night through Thursday morning, according to the National Weather Service.

“Nobody wants to be cold,” Ashford said. “This is not Russia. They need to pay their debts to the law, but whoever’s in charge of the heat could be more humane about it.”

Okay so I wouldn’t wish this weather on my worst enemy.  Not on Aaron Rodgers, not Carl, not fucking Ronnie Woo Woo.  Actually now that I think about it Ronnie Woo Woo is already sleeping under some park bench in this weather so that doesn’t even matter.  One could argue that forcing a bunch of murderers and rapists to shovel snow for $2/hour in sub arctic temperatures is cruel and unusual punishment, but I’m not a goddamn lawyer.  Instead my question is this:

Why in the fuck does the Cook County Jail have a snap chat filter?

Screen Shot 2019-01-29 at 6.15.16 PM

Now I’m not big into snap chat, but from what I gather it’s used for two things:

2. Sending nudes
1.  Sending pictures of your dumps

Now I in particular only get pictures of #1 but the point remains.  Are we as Americans so millenialized that we must provide prisoners paying debts to society snap chat filters?  I can get giving them computer access here and there, yard time to play catch with Red, and maybe even conjugal visits for those exhibiting good behavior.  But snap chat filters?  

The pussification of America continues