Cross-Cultural, Urban, Reformed, Ecumenical

COVID-19 Solidarity Initiative with Incarcerated Learners at CCDOC

“Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body” ~ Hebrews 13:3

In light of COVID-19 and the increased uncertainty that we face as members of both local and global communities, the program for Theological Studies at Cook County Department of Corrections (CCDOC), intend to respond to the urgent needs of incarcerated learners. At Cook County Department of Corrections, there are nearly 6,000 incarcerated individuals and approximately 3,300 correctional employees. The risk of exposure to Covid-19 to both staff and incarcerated individuals is incredibly high because social distancing is difficult if not impossible. As of March 30, 2020, CCDOC has reported that 134 confirmed cases of Covid-19 amongst incarcerated individuals. The numbers of confirmed cases continue to increase daily. To reduce the risk of exposure, Sheriff Dart’s team have taken measures to suspend visitations and programs that offer community support for incarcerated individuals.

In the absence of social connections, postponement of enrichment programs and fears of their own exposure to Covid-19 as well as concerns for the physical and economic wellbeing of family and friends on the outside, the challenges that incarcerated individuals face daily have been compounded by the global Covid-19 pandemic. Already vulnerable incarcerated communities are now experiencing heightened social isolation, increased economic insecurity and threats to holistic wellbeing.

McCormick’s program for Theological Studies at Cook County Department of Correction (CCDOC) exists to create an ecosystem of beloved community through liberative theological seminary education. The program seeks to mitigate the numerous material, social, and political barriers that system impacted communities experience while incarcerated and upon release. In line with the four program pillars: 1) seminary education in jail, 2) community engagement and re-entry support, 3) seminary engagement and 4) public education and advocacy, we have created a Covid-19 solidarity initiative for incarcerated learners at CCDOC.

Our efforts demonstrate McCormick is an institution that leads as a servant of solidarity. As an institution of servant solidarity, we live into our calling: The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound ~ Isaiah 61:1

We invite you join McCormick in supporting incarcerated learners in the following ways:

  1. Seminary education in jail offers incarcerated learners an opportunity to earn a certificate in theological studies with a focus on intellectual, spiritual and practical tools for holistic transformation as persons in community.
  2. Community engagement and re-entry support convenes community relationships and networks that position the seminary to be a connector of incarcerated learners (and their community) to churches and networks of support that could assist in re-entry and seek to address the issues of mass incarceration, criminal justice and police reform, and community building.
  3. Seminarian engagement connects students to the program of theological studies at CCDOC and supports McCormick’s commitment to training the next generation of faith leaders who are committed to justice, freedom, healing, and peace for all people.

  4. WriteNow. In this current time of increased uncertainty, the program for Theological Studies at Cook County Department of Corrections, seeks to establish a Letter-Writing Solidarity Community. McCormick students, staff and faculty have been invited to write letters of encouragement, prayer and support to students at Cook County Jail.
  5. Public education and advocacy. As a member of the IL- Coalition of Higher Ed in Prison, McCormick has been involved in advocacy efforts to urge state and local government officials to decarcerate IL prison and jail populations. Decarceration will make social distancing possible, increasing protections to the nearly 12,000 correctional staff and 40,000 incarcerated people from the risk of Covid-19.

Articles on Covid-19 and Incarceration