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Judge rips juvenile center for alleged beating

Thursday, February 16, 2006
Chicago Sun-Times
by ABDON M. PALLASCH Legal Affairs Reporter

A federal judge blasted administrators at Cook County's Juvenile Detention Center on Wednesday, saying they failed to disclose allegations that a guard beat a young detainee until his eardrum burst.

Referring to detention center Supt. Jerry Robinson, Judge John Nordberg said, "Who's the person put in there last June? I don't know that he's doing . . . it doesn't look like he's doing very much. The county looks very poor. The court is going to look very poor."

Robinson, a former Chicago Police deputy superintendent, was in court because of an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit that claims detainees are routinely mistreated. As a result of the suit, two court-appointed monitors periodically inspect the West Side facility housing youths awaiting criminal hearings. Every month, the center is supposed to turn over all abuse allegations to the monitors and the ACLU.

'Read about it in the newspaper'
After Wednesday's hearing, Robinson sa id of the judge, "I don't agree with him." Robinson insisted he turned over a report on the youth who claims he was beaten by guards, Roosevelt Thompson. Robinson said he even spoke by telephone with the boy's mother.

But monitor Charles Fasano of the John Howard Foundation and ACLU attorney Ben Wolf said they searched their files they got from the center and never saw the report on Thompson. They, the judge, and even the county's lead attorney, Patrick Driscoll, said they only learned of Thompson's case from a recent newspaper article.

"Judge, we read about it in the newspaper," Driscoll said.

Sides hope to avoid trial
"That's the problem," Nordberg said. "You don't hire people that can't handle the provocations and keep them under control. We shouldn't have to wait for alert newspaper reporters to find out about stories like this and put them in the newspaper."

Thompson's case follows a lawsuit filed in November in Cook County Circuit Court by a youth the Sun-Times did not name at the family's request, who said he was beaten by a guard at the center. A recent self-assessment of the center by a committee that included four employees said youths there are adamant that guards beat them and use chokeholds.

In Thompson's case, a guard hit and punched him until he fell to the floor and then continued kicking him on the floor, said Thompson's attorney, Jeffrey B. Granich.

Attorneys for the county and the ACLU have held two meetings and plan to meet before next week's court hearing to see if they can come up with an agreement that would avoid a trial. If they can't reach an agreement, Nordberg signaled he is ready to consider taking action to safeguard youth at the center.

"Put yourself in my shoes," he told attorneys for the county. "This is not acceptable operational behavior for an institution."



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