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County admits error over juvenile jail report

Thursday, February 23, 2006
Chicago Sun-Times
by ABDON M. PALLASCH Legal Affairs Reporter

A federal judge Wednesday told Cook County lawyers not to bother arguing in his courtroom that "good things are happening" at the county's Juvenile Detention Center.
"You're not going to get anyone saying this is a very well-run institution," Judge John Nordberg said.
County officials admitted Wednesday that they were wrong a week ago when they assured Nordberg they had turned over to a court-appointed monitor and attorneys for the young wards of the center a report of a youth treated in December for a broken eardrum. The youth was allegedly beaten by a guard. Every month, reports of alleged abuse are supposed to be turned over, but this one wasn't because of an "administrative error."
"There is no mention of this in any of the December reports -- it calls into question the veracity of the reporting system," court-appointed monitor Charles Fasano said. He also said he learned a half-hour before Wednesday's hearing that the county was in violation of state law because it was not reporting such incidents to the Illinois Department of Corrections.
The county is defending itself against a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the 500 youth detainees at the center, some of whom say they are mistreated. The judge hopes the two sides can reach an agreement, avoiding trial.
'A flunking score'
Nordberg, shaking his head because he is leaving on a long vacation in a week and no agreement between appears imminent between the county and the lawyers for the youth, offered to reassign the case to another judge -- an option he may exercise next week if no settlement is reached.
Repeating criticism he uttered last week of the center's latest superintendent, Jerry Robinson, Nordberg said, "It's very difficult to see any progress that has been made" at the center. "How long has [Robinson] been there?"
"Since June," county attorney Patrick Driscoll said.
Any further study of the center "is going to show he has not been doing the job," Nordberg said.
"We need to get him the experts and the resources," Driscoll said.
"You've got the experts -- they indicate the job's not being done. . . . They're coming back with a flunking score," Nordberg said.
After the hearing Robinson said he did not know where Nordberg was getting his information. He said as he did after last week's hearing, "I disagree with him."

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