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County incapable of fixing juvenile center, critics say
'Some child is going to get hurt out there'

Thursday, May 31, 2007
Chicago Sun-Times
by ANNIE SWEENEY

With problems such as filthy rooms, dirty laundry and abusive staff at Cook County's juvenile detention center continuing to mount, youth advocates are tired of waiting for county leaders to fix the problems.
The ACLU of Illinois asked federal Judge John A. Nordberg to put the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center in receivership Wednesday. The move would give a court-appointed receiver -- a person or an organization -- independent authority to oversee reform.
The ACLU's push to take the center out of the county's hands came after an advocate learned in May that no apparent follow-up care was given to a child who had urinated in his cell and was found with a noose around his neck.
"That is a complete absence of leadership,'' attorney Thomas F. Geraghty said. "Some child is going to get hurt out there."
Experts fired
Geraghty has acted as a court-appointed "next friend'' of detention-center residents since 1999, when an ACLU lawsuit alleging widespread problems was filed. Three years later, the county agreed to make changes. In 2005, the ACLU went back to court and argued that no improvements had been made.
Nordberg asked both sides to work together to improve conditions.
But reports from an outside monitor have indicated that little, if anything, has changed.
In April, to cut the budget, the county fired two of the experts brought in to help make the changes.
"That facility has continued to deteriorate into chaos,'' said Cook County Commissioner Forest Claypool. "Yet there has been absolutely no leadership from [County Board President] Todd Stroger or anyone else in this county. The only people who ever had any reform credentials were ushered out the door.''
In a statement Wednesday, Stroger called the allegations "historical in nature" and not a reflection of the "current state of affairs.''
"In fact, in the last five months, the administration has worked to foster a renewed commitment to providing appropriate care and oversight,'' Stroger said.


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