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Juvenile center monitor in plan

Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Chicago Tribune
by Mickey Ciokajlo and Ofelia Casillas

Cook County commissioners agreed Tuesday to a proposed court order that calls for outside experts to monitor the troubled juvenile detention facility and a new on-site compliance administrator who will oversee progress toward improvements.

The proposed order is to be presented to a federal judge Thursday.

"This particular agreement really moves this process in a positive direction--and there is no easy, simple solution," Commissioner Tony Peraica (R-Riverside) said.

Three commissioners voted against the proposal, including Forrest Claypool, who called it a "rehash of the old settlement."

"I'm disappointed, particularly on behalf of these kids who I thought would have benefited from the fact-finding mission," Claypool said.

If approved by the court, the order will allow the county to avoid a hearing at which testimony about alleged physical abuse, mismanagement and other problems could be expected.

Claypool, who said he sat through a number of the recent court dates, said it was apparent to him that U.S. District Judge John Nordberg "had no desire or willingness to get his hands dirty or learn anything or actually make a decision on anything."

Through a law clerk, Nordberg declined to comment.

The proposed order is the latest turn in a lawsuit brought in 1999 by the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU and the county reached an agreement in 2002, but late last year the ACLU went to court arguing the county was failing to comply.

Under the new proposed order, the county would have eight months to reach "substantial compliance" with the December 2002 agreement.

"If the court approves our agreement, it is the beginning of a process that has a great chance for really helping the children out there," ACLU attorney Benjamin Wolf said. "We are going to bring in independent experts and give them the authority to craft real solutions to the problems at the facility."

If the agreement is approved Thursday, court-appointed monitors and experts will have 60 days to file a plan to correct the problems.

A compliance administrator, who has yet to be named, will provide day-to-day, on-site coordination. The administrator will consult directly with center Supt. Jerry Robinson, who must inform all parties if he rejects any of the administrator's recommendations.

The monitors and the compliance administrator will provide status reports to the court every 30 days.

Within 21 days after the agreement takes effect, staff members who are alleged to have physically abused a resident on more than one occasion must be enrolled in intensified training and counseling.

Also Tuesday, Board President John Stroger's son, Chicago Ald. Todd Stroger (8th), and Stroger's chief of staff, James Whigham, both said the board president's condition is improving following his March 14 stroke.

Whigham said he was delighted by Stroger's progress as the two sat and spoke Sunday. Whether Stroger will remain on the November ballot is uncertain.

Officials reported Tuesday to the County Board that the torture investigation into former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge has so far cost the county $7.3 million.

The amount was revised upward after Finance Committee staff reviewed bills submitted since the investigation began in 2002.

----------

mciokajlo@tribune.com
ocasillas@tribune.com
Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune



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