Wednesday, August 01, 2007


The Juvenile Temporary Detention Center in Chicago has been plagued by allegations of child abuse, unsanitary conditions and patronage for years. Yesterday area teens expressed their concern with an unusual protest at the Cook County Board president's office (see article below).

An editorial in the Chicago Tribune earlier this year stated:

Children languish there like warehoused animals, while millions of dollars are wasted on do-nothing jobs filled by unqualified workers and patronage stooges. ... Kids live in filthy surroundings, with little guidance, under the supervision of workers whose behaviors cheat the residents even more than they cheat Cook County taxpayers...

Children at the center face "an alarming risk of suicide and inadequate mental health services" and "a climate of fear and violence," say attorneys who represent them. Kids are beaten by staff members and other kids. Attorneys point to "a culture of chaos and incompetence" and "a persistent failure to provide basic necessities."

In June, describing ongoing conditions at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center as "unacceptable and dangerous," Northwestern University Law Professor Thomas F. Geraghty, who serves as the court-appointed "Next Friend" representing the interests of the youths housed at the facility, asked the Court to appoint a Receiver with complete, independent authority to oversee and implement needed reform to the troubled facility.

The children at the JTDC have waited many years for reform and cannot wait another day," said Professor Geraghty, director of the Bluhm Legal Clinic at the Northwestern University School of Law. "The court should act with dispatch to appoint and empower a receiver to manage the facility and implement reforms -- reforms that will ensure that abusive staff members are kept away from children or dismissed, that a comprehensive, effective system exists to track the physical and mental health care needs of children at the facility, that these children have shoes so that they can attend school, and other very basic services."

"The chaotic conditions at the JTDC are hurting children - they must change," added Geraghty.

As evidence of problems at JTDC that remain unresolved at the hands of the County, Geraghty pointed to:

-- The critical lack of leadership at the facility -- currently the top leadership at the facility consists of an Acting Superintendent, a part-time individual on loan from the Department of Public Health and an assistant who is the sister of a County Commissioner and has no experience operating a juvenile detention center;

-- On-going abuse of juveniles and lack of oversight of staff previously found to have abused children -- three youth counselors were rehired who previously had been terminated for abusing young people, others who have been accused of abuse have not received training and oversight promised in the MIP, and the County still has not filled an internal position to investigate allegations of abuse;

-- Lack of mental health care services -- staffing in the medical and mental health departments do not meet minimum standards despite that fact that a high percentage of children at JTDC face serious mental health issues;

-- The lack of basic services for children -- the County still has failed to provide children at the detention center with the bare necessities, including adequate clean clothes and shoes required to attend school; and

-- Lack of any management comprehensive management and tracking system -- the County has failed to develop a meaningful, effective management system to track critical events affecting the children and staff in the facility.

"In June, it will be eight years that we have waited for County officials to meet the basic, human needs of our clients. Unfortunately, they have proven unable to carry out even the most basic reforms," said Colby Anne Kingsbury, a partner at Kirkland & Ellis LLP.

Yesterday, after years of resistance, the County Board approved transferring control to an outside administrator.

Whoever is running the facility, something obviously needs to be done right now, like today.

The following is from the Chicago Sun Times.

Teens' protest demands changes at juvy center

The two girls shyly walked through the large glass doors of Todd Stroger's office carrying a box, its flaps open to reveal the contents -- bright pink and green girls' underwear decorated with butterflies and flowers. Beneath those, checkered boxers for boys.

Confused staff at the desk glanced at the box and asked if the girls were making a donation.

"It's for the kids,'' they said quietly as more staff came charging out of a side office demanding the media following the girls get out.

Back on the other side of the glass doors, Ladonna Coleman and Nyelia Long, both 14, joined 50 other teens from the South and Southwest sides who visited the Cook County Board president's office to protest treatment of kids who are locked up inside the county's juvenile detention center.

Woes at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center have been well-documented over the last eight years since a federal lawsuit was filed to demand better conditions at the West Side facility. Complaints of physically abusive guards, unclean conditions, lack of mental health access and, recently, dirty underwear, have been detailed in several reports to the court. The donated underwear was for the kids at the center.

Outside control approved
"They're dirty, they have no clean underwear ... no clean bathrooms ... rats are running around, roaches,'' Chevonne Linear, 15, said. "I care because I am a youth myself. They're children, and they need to grow. They need love and care.''

The county and the attorneys who filed the lawsuit for the residents are nearing a settlement on turning over control of the center to an outside party. A hearing is scheduled for next week.

On Tuesday, the County Board approved transferring control to an outside administrator, pending court approval.

"Improvement of those conditions continues to be a top priority for the president,'' said Ibis Antongiorgi, a Stroger spokeswoman. "These are things that are historic in nature. We are moving forward and trying to improve those conditions. We have for many months now.''


Anonymous said...

What's going on at Cook County Juvy is rediculous. Reports have been leaking out from staff on the inside, albeit folks afraid of getting fired for speaking out. They say it's all very underwraps and administration keeps it so. Students just getting out have been reporting on it and finally some of them are speaking out for the conditions in there. Why are we holding 11 years olds like this under prison conditions, especially when they haven't been sentenced to anything? This place should be about rehabilitation and mental care.

Anonymous said...

nyelia long is my neice!! :)