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Detention center supt. to keep job for now

Friday, July 28, 2006
Daily Southtown
by Jenny Hunsperger

Jerry Robinson's job as superintendent of the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center is safe ó for now.
A report issued by a court-appointed official earlier this week detailed alleged safety and hygiene violations at the center, and Cook County Commissioner Forrest Claypool (D-Chicago) called for the removal of Robinson and his entire senior staff.
But incoming interim Cook County Board President Bobbie Steele said she has no plans to do so.
"I want to give due process to everybody," she said Thursday after an unannounced visit to the center. "I'm not going to go out and take Mr. Robinson's job away without giving him a fair chance to explain those allegations."
Among other things, the report said some children being held in custody at the detention center tried to commit suicide, the staff arrived late to work and slept on the job, and the doors to living quarters were left open.
"I'm not going to take what the papers say or what the reports say," Steele said. "I want to see for myself. I'm a parent, a grandmother and a former schoolteacher. I care about children."
Claypool still wants a change in leadership.
"The center is a cesspool," the commissioner said. "It's a dumping ground for people who have no qualifications for dealing with troubled youth."
Robinson, a 36-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department, was appointed superintendent in June 2005. He said the report gives a false impression of what is going on at the center.
"I would think that if you walked through the facility and saw something like a door open, you'd ask why it was wrong instead of just reporting it," he said. "(The investigator) may have seen one door to a living unit open. We've been undergoing some hot weather, and sometimes the living units get really hot. We have to give the residents some relief."
The detention center, at 1100 S. Hamilton Ave. on the floors above Cook County Juvenile Court, comprises 30 living units similar to what might be thought of as cell blocks. Some of the units have 16 "rooms," or cells, and others contain 18.
Each room confines only one juvenile and contains a toilet, sink, bed and desk, Robinson said. Nearly 400 of the rooms are occupied.
Steele said she requested a written response from Robinson addressing each of the allegations in the court monitor's report.
"I will do what it takes to rid the center of that kind of conduct," Steele said. "If I feel that Mr. Robinson is not performing his duties in the manner that he should be, I will remove him from his job."

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