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  Cook County was created on January 15, 1831 and named after Daniel P. Cook, Member of Congress and the first Attorney from the State of Illinois.

Cook County chaos

Wednesday, June 06, 2007
Chicago Tribune

The Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center is out of control. Children languish there like warehoused animals, while millions of dollars are wasted on do-nothing jobs filled by unqualified workers and patronage stooges. ... Kids live in filthy surroundings, with little guidance, under the supervision of workers whose behaviors cheat the residents even more than they cheat Cook County taxpayers.

That's how this page described Cook County's juvenile center in August 2005. Nothing has changed since then.
In the last two years a slew of experts has detailed that the facility, which houses children ages 10 to 17 who are accused of crimes, remains plagued by filth, professional incompetence and dangerous conditions.

Children at the center face "an alarming risk of suicide and inadequate mental health services" and "a climate of fear and violence," say attorneys who represent them. Kids are beaten by staff members and other kids. Attorneys point to "a culture of chaos and incompetence" and "a persistent failure to provide basic necessities."

More than four years ago, the federal court mandated a step-by-step plan to rescue the juvenile center. Cook County leaders agreed to that plan, but they have utterly failed to honor the agreement. And now things have reached a perilous state.

Last week, the American Civil Liberties Union asked U.S. District Judge John Nordberg to place the juvenile center in receivership. That's a severe step, but a necessary one.

A receiver would likely be granted greater authority over budget matters, contracts and hiring and firing. A receiver could break the stranglehold that patronage politics has had on the place. A receiver could rescue the kids who live amid rodents, the kids who suffer from mental illnesses and can't get medications.

The request for receivership comes at an awkward time. The Illinois legislature has just approved a bill that would take control of the center away from Cook County Board President Todd Stroger and turn it over to Tim Evans, chief judge of the Circuit Court. We support the bill and hope the governor signs it. But it wouldn't go into effect until January at the earliest. That's too long a time to wait. The situation is too immediate and too dire.

The latest evidence:

In recent months, the center's medical services accreditation has been revoked.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation, which has national expertise in juvenile justice, dispatched several consultants to work with facility leaders to improve the place. But the foundation has now dropped out, citing the futility of the effort.

In the last year, the center has had three superintendents -- all three failed. People who had the expertise and experience to bring changes at the center were canned by Stroger. Yet he kept in place unqualified political appointees like Maria Moreno Szafarczyk, sister of county Commissioner Joseph Mario Moreno.

So change is needed right now.

Eventually, the center will come under the control of the Circuit Court. But the appointment of a receiver would get quick results and buy time for Judge Evans and his aides to get up to speed on the problems there, to learn from the experts who have been evaluating the place for years.

At a hearing in federal court Thursday, Nordberg suggested he understood the urgency here. We hope he acts quickly on that understanding.

Recent Headlines

Preteens out of detention before trial under new ordinance
Friday, September 14, 2018
Chicago Daily Law Bulletin

Cook County Board bars detention of youth under 13 years old
Thursday, September 13, 2018
Injustice Watch

Preteens accused of crimes won't be locked up at Cook County juvenile center
Thursday, September 13, 2018
Chicago Sun-Times

Slowik: Cook County offers residents last chance to comment on strategic plan
Thursday, September 13, 2018
Daily Southtown

Settlement over Cook County's 2007 decision to cut inmates' dental care will cost nearly $5.3 million
Wednesday, September 12, 2018
Chicago Tribune

Anti-patronage Shakman pact requiring federal oversight of Cook County hiring, firing to end
Friday, August 31, 2018
Chicago Tribune

1st District upholds merit board in firing of deputy
Thursday, August 30, 2018
Chicago Daily Law Bulletin

Neighborhood program helps Cook County residents buy homes
Sunday, August 26, 2018
Chicago Sun-Times

Judge upholds Cook County firearm, ammunition taxes
Thursday, August 23, 2018
Chicago Daily Law Bulletin

Editorial: E-filing should make Cook County courts more accessible. It doesn't
Wednesday, August 22, 2018
Chicago Tribune

Cook County tax incentive could pave way for Wingstop, Dunkin' Donuts on Elgin's Summit Street
Tuesday, August 21, 2018
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Editorial: What happened to the elk?
Friday, August 10, 2018
Chicago Tribune

Wells Fargo to offer $15,000 grants to potential Cook County homebuyers
Thursday, August 09, 2018
Chicago Tribune

Suit alleges Cook County detainees secretly monitored in bathrooms in holding cells at courthouses
Wednesday, August 08, 2018
Chicago Tribune

Half the elk at Busse Woods died last year, and officials arenít sure why
Tuesday, August 07, 2018
Chicago Tribune

A letter from Dr. Jay Shannon regarding gun violence and Stroger Hospital
Tuesday, August 07, 2018
Special to

As Evanston adapts to minimum wage hike, nearby towns say they have no plan to join in
Tuesday, August 07, 2018
Chicago Tribune

Lawsuit could blast a $250 million hole in county budget
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Crain's Chicago Business

Pappas: Automatic refunds of $19.5 million going to 53,000 homeowners because of property tax cuts
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Special to

Thousands of Cook County homeowners to receive property tax refunds
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