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Twin-Cities coalition calls for freeing inmates awaiting trial, spending boost to protect people from coronavirus impact

About 95 people took part in Wednesday night's Protect Our People virtual organizing meeting.

BLOOMINGTON (WEEK) - A coalition of community activists are forming a coalition in the Twin-Cities to help residents who faced economic challenges even before the coronavirus pandemic.

The "Protect Our People" coalition held a virtual organizing meeting Wednesday night, in which Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner was one of 95 people participating in the conference call.

Coalition members are demanding, among other things, that McLean County Jail inmates being held on cash bonds should be released while they're awaiting trial.

Inmates are in close quarters at the jail, increasing the risk that they might catch COVID-19. They should be at their homes, and in quarantine, in accordance with Gov. JB Pritizker's orders, the group said.

Inequities with cash bonds have been a "perpetual" issue, according to Renner.

"If they had the cash, they would be out (of jail)," the mayor said.

The coalition acknowledges McLean County Sheriff Jon Sandage is opposed to the idea.

The group also wants local governments like the Normal and Bloomington city councils to spend more public money to help low-income residents pay rent and other bills.

Renner said he'll need the coalition's help to lobby Bloomington's council. Renner believes three or four council members would be on board with additional spending, but it will take more effort to garner a majority of five council votes.

Organizers plan another virtual meeting April 1.

Howard Packowitz

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