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Judge to look at detention center deal

Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Chicago Daily Law Bulletin
by John Flynn Rooney

A federal judge will review an agreement that allows experts to compile a list of reforms for Cook County's troubled Juvenile Detention Center.

The Cook County Board approved the agreement this week and it will be presented to U.S. District Judge John A. Nordberg on Thursday.

In 1999, the ACLU brought a lawsuit on behalf of a class of center residents, alleging abuse from other juveniles and staffers.

The lawsuit was settled four years ago when the county agreed to improve conditions. However, the ACLU asked Nordberg in November 2005 to appoint an independent manager to oversee reforms at the center because the group was concerned about new harm to the juveniles.

The agreement is ''the next step in achieving real reform at the Juvenile Detention Center,'' said Benjamin S. Wolf, associate legal director of the ACLU of Illinois and lead counsel for the plaintiffs. ''We're very excited that this settlement brings in independent experts to craft a plan to solve the problems.''

Patrick T. Driscoll Jr. , chief of the Civil Actions Bureau of the Cook County state's attorney's office, is defending the county in the case. Driscoll recently told the Chicago Lawyer that the county shares the ACLU's goal of creating the ''best detention center possible.''

Two independent court-appointed monitors — juvenile justice expert Michael J. Mahoney and Charles A. Fasano of the John Howard Association — are also involved in the case. Jimmy Doe et al. v. Cook County, et al., No. 99 C 3945.

County commissioners voted 9-3 on Tuesday in favor of the agreement. If Nordberg approves the agreement, the team of four experts, including Dr. Louis J. Kraus, chief of child and adolescent psychiatry at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, would have 60 days to develop a detailed plan that county officials must follow, Wolf said.

The agreement further allows for the appointment of a new ''compliance administrator,'' who will be responsible for the day-to-day coordination and supervision of the team's plan.

Jerry Robinson, a 36-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department, will remain as the facility's superintendent, a job he assumed in June 2005.

The facility, which houses between 400 and 450 youths, is located at 1100 S. Hamilton Ave. in Chicago.

An FBI spokesman said in April that federal agents are investigating whether there were civil rights violations at the detention center. At that time, a spokesman for Cook County Board President John H. Stroger Jr. said county officials would cooperate fully with the FBI.

The county spokesman said none of the recent allegations have been proved true.



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