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Teens' protest demands changes at juvy center
COUNTY | 'I care because I am a youth myself': demonstrator

Wednesday, August 01, 2007
Chicago Sun-Times
by ANNIE SWEENEY

The two girls shyly walked through the large glass doors of Todd Stroger's office carrying a box, its flaps open to reveal the contents -- bright pink and green girls' underwear decorated with butterflies and flowers. Beneath those, checkered boxers for boys.
Confused staff at the desk glanced at the box and asked if the girls were making a donation.
"It's for the kids,'' they said quietly as more staff came charging out of a side office demanding the media following the girls get out.
Back on the other side of the glass doors, Ladonna Coleman and Nyelia Long, both 14, joined 50 other teens from the South and Southwest sides who visited the Cook County Board president's office to protest treatment of kids who are locked up inside the county's juvenile detention center.
Woes at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center have been well-documented over the last eight years since a federal lawsuit was filed to demand better conditions at the West Side facility. Complaints of physically abusive guards, unclean conditions, lack of mental health access and, recently, dirty underwear, have been detailed in several reports to the court. The donated underwear was for the kids at the center.
Outside control approved
"They're dirty, they have no clean underwear ... no clean bathrooms ... rats are running around, roaches,'' Chevonne Linear, 15, said. "I care because I am a youth myself. They're children, and they need to grow. They need love and care.''
The county and the attorneys who filed the lawsuit for the residents are nearing a settlement on turning over control of the center to an outside party. A hearing is scheduled for next week.
On Tuesday, the County Board approved transferring control to an outside administrator, pending court approval.
"Improvement of those conditions continues to be a top priority for the president,'' said Ibis Antongiorgi, a Stroger spokeswoman. "These are things that are historic in nature. We are moving forward and trying to improve those conditions. We have for many months now.''
Contributing: Steve Patterson


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