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Bar to help oversee, try to improve juvenile jail

Friday, December 30, 2005
Daily Southtown
by Jonathan Lipman

The Chicago Bar Association will help monitor conditions at Cook County's troubled juvenile jail.

County Board President John Stroger announced the partnership Thursday, saying he wants the lawyers group to work with the American Civil Liberties Union, which has an ongoing lawsuit against the county over its handling of the facility.

"I am grateful to the bar for their willingness to help improve the center," Stroger said in a news release. "We take our role very seriously and are more than willing to make improvements."

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

Bar association president Michael B. Hyman said the group first reached out to Stroger weeks ago when critical reports about the jail first began to appear in the papers.

"Our objective is just to come up with ways to make things run better," Hyman said. "The Chicago Bar Association was responsible for the first juvenile court law in the United States, in 1889. ... We have the expertise, the energy and the vision."

Working with the ACLU, the association plans to form a panel of lawyers and other experts who will study conditions at the center. All services will be volunteered, at no cost to the county.

Hyman said they'll start work next month and have been promised full access to the facility and its records.

"We're not the type of organization that would accept doing anything like this with any restrictions," Hyman said. "I don't think there will be any problems."

The bar association joins the Annie Casey Foundation, which won an agreement from the county in September that allows the nonprofit to monitor conditions at the facility and make suggestions for improvement.



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