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Official says no 'gladiator room' at juvenile jail

Thursday, October 06, 2005
Daily Southtown
by Jonathan Lipman

There are no staff-approved fights held at the Cook County juvenile jail, officials said Wednesday, denying published reports about a "gladiator room" where young inmates are sent to sort out differences.

Supt. Jerry Robinson told county commissioners at a board meeting Wednesday that no such activities have taken place since he took over earlier this year.

The American Civil Liberties Union reportedly also has received similar complaints about staff-approved fights at the facility.

Commissioner Forrest Claypool said he was concerned by an independent court monitor's report that 348 fights have broken out at the juvenile jail since April.

"Where was the staff when these fights took place?" asked Claypool (D-Chicago).

Robinson said the jail gets 500 admissions every month, and fights are inevitable given the violent youth who are sent there.

The jail has come under close scrutiny since a series of reports alleging poor management, unqualified counselors and runaway overtime expenses.

Claypool also questioned Robinson about why contract bids for food services were being sent out late.

Robinson said it was because an employee failed to do the job, but he said he could not fire that person until he did a full investigation.

Pharmacy reform

Seeking to end weeks-long wait times for prescriptions at county hospitals, the board approved resolutions requiring county hospitals to develop a plan to cut waits to 48 hours.

Pushed by Commissioner Roberto Maldonado, the reforms also require a study of how much pharmacist salaries need to increase to fill vacancies and initiatives to connect poor residents to existing programs providing cheap prescription drugs.

Settlement approved

Taking time to apologize personally to the family of Neveen Morkos, the board approved a $35 million settlement for the family of the Tinley Park woman, who suffered severe brain damage while undergoing surgery by county doctors.

Commissioner Tony Peraica (R-Riverside) opposed the deal, saying it was a sign of the general mismanagement of the county health system.

New proposals

Proposals to change the budget process were introduced by Commissioners Forrest Claypool and Larry Suffredin. They want the president's office to submit the budget between Sept. 15 and Oct. 15, after last year's budget wasn't released until January.

They also want Stroger to provide commissioners with six-year budget projections and want faster release of end-of-year financial reports, now taking more than a year to come out.

Salary increase

Cook County State's Attorney Dick Devine's annual salary was increased from $163,915 to $167,521, as per state law.

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