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Officials announce reforms at Cook County juvenile center

Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Associated Press

CHICAGO -- Officials say they've instituted a series of reforms at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center, including the separation of the most violent residents away from other youth and the expansion of mentoring programs.

J.W. Fairman, the center's new superintendent, said officials "just scratched the surface" with the reforms announced Tuesday.

He said he has provided for residents' basic needs and has addressed problems such as shortages in underwear, pajamas and bedding for residents. He has also had mattresses and towels replaced, and residents now get snacks twice a day, in the morning and in the evening.

Residents can also receive visitors up to five times a week under the reforms.

County Board President Bobbie Steele said Fairman has made "profound improvements" at the center.

"One of the greatest responsibilities I have is right here at this facility," Steele said during a briefing at the center. "There is no room for politics when it comes to the operation of this center."

For years, the center has faced allegations of unsafe conditions and the abuse of residents. In 1999, the American Civil Liberties Union sued the facility in federal court.

That suit was settled in 2002 when the county agreed to improve conditions, but the ACLU asked a federal judge in November to appoint an independent manager to oversee reforms. A former state corrections official was appointed as monitor in June.

Officials said time-clock systems with digital fingerprint identification have been added to help stop employee misconduct. And staffers now respond more quickly to abuse allegations.



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