The recent release of an ICE detainee from the McHenry County Jail was because of uncertain deportation deadlines, not because of unsanitary conditions, McHenry County Sheriff Bill Prim said, disputing an ACLU statement.
A lawsuit was filed on April 17 in federal district court in Chicago on behalf of Souleymane Dembele and Muhammad Taufiq Butt. The suit was seeking immediate, temporary release of the two detainees from the jail.
The suit said that both Dembele and Taufiq Butt were at high risk of serious complications if they were to contract COVID-19 because of their pre-existing medical conditions. They alleged that the jail was crowded and unsanitary.
Dembele was released from the jail shortly after the lawsuit was filed, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois. Taufiq Butt was released on May 13 following a ruling on May 7 by U.S. District Court Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer.
The ACLU issued a statement after Taufiq Butt was released saying that, “We are pleased the federal court recognized that our client was likely to succeed in showing that conditions in the McHenry County Jail placed him at risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19.”
McHenry County Sheriff Bill Prim disputed the ACLU’s claim. “It is beyond the four squares of this litigation, the ACLU press release is an outrageous distortion of Judge Pallmeyer’s findings that led to Mr. Butt’s release in this case,” he said.
Court transcripts from an April 29 hearing show that Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer said the opposite of what the ACLU claimed. “I don’t believe Mr. Butt’s has established a clear likelihood of success on the merits of this claim.”
Pallmeyer reversed her decision by the next hearing on May 7 and said that Taufiq Butt’s conditions put him at a significant risk for COVID-19.
“He does have conditions that are significantly — significant for a risk for COVID-19, but he’s in a facility that I think is being run quite well at which somebody who wants to exercise social distancing and wear masks can do so,” she said.
The judge went on to say that because there was no firm date on which Taufiq Butt would be removed from the United States, he should be released from the jail on bond conditions set by ICE.
There were no scheduled flights to Pakistan and flights are not expected to resume until at least June. ICE has six months to remove an individual from the country and because Taufiq Butt had been held since January, the six-month period would be closing in by June.
“Mr. Butt and the ACLU do prevail in the Judge’s findings, on the inability to be removed under time constraints — not the conditions of the McHenry County Correctional Facility,” Prim said.
“The ACLU is entitled to their opinions but not their own set of facts. We believe the court transcripts will indicate that the ACLU’s statement is patently untrue specific to the Judge’s statement and jail conditions,” he added.
Court documents and a spokesperson for the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office said that the McHenry County Jail has since implemented virus mitigation efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
No staff or inmates at the jail have tested positive for COVID-19; however, the jail does not test asymptomatic individuals, according to court transcripts.