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Plan for fixing juvenile jail ready
'We're going to enforce this,' vows local ACLU

Tuesday, January 09, 2007
Chicago Sun-Times
by ANNIE SWEENEY Staff Reporter

Seven years after a lawsuit was filed to fix the Cook County Temporary Detention Center, a plan that orders specific changes has been handed to county officials.
The Modified Implementation Plan has a six-month deadline and goes into effect Monday, officials said. It is enforceable by law, said Benjamin Wolf, associate legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois.
"We're going to enforce this," Wolf said. "And if this doesn't work, we will seek more extensive remedies from the court."
Conditions at the detention center at 1100 S. Hamilton were the subject of a 1999 federal lawsuit filed by the ACLU on behalf of residents because of unsafe and unclean conditions there. Four years later, a settlement was reached to fix the problems, and since then, the county has struggled to come up with a plan that all parties could agree to.
All the while, reports of problems persisted, including that residents were physically abused and employees with felony arrest records had been hired.
Last year, a federal judge ordered all parties to try again to find a solution. Court-appointed experts wrote the current plan, and court-appointed monitors refined it.
The document includes specifics -- increase the number of psychiatrists on staff from the current one to two and increase the number of psychologists from the current three to at least six.
There is also a requirement that the county work more closely with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services to investigate abuse allegations and a mandate that the center write a strict discipline code for staff and hire a full-time investigator to check complaints against staff, Wolf said.
"The place is not as clean as it should be. ... The place is not as safe as they should be," Wolf said. "The hard part is implementing it."
A spokesman for Cook County Board Chairman Todd Stroger said many changes are under way. "We are excited about going forward with our mission of establishing a safe and clean environment while these young people are in residential custody," said Steve Mayberry.


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