Suffredin- For a Better Cook County  

Forest Preserves
Public Safety
Cook County Budget
Forest Pres. Budget
Property Tax Appeal
Health & Hospitals
Land Bank Authority
Policy Resolutions


  Office phone numbers:  

Search current and proposed Cook County Legislation in Larry's exclusive legislative library.


The Cook County Code of Ordinances are the current laws of Cook County.

  Cook County Hospital fills more outpatient prescriptions every day than are filled at 26 Walgreen's drug store combined.

A kinder Christmas for kids in jail
Holiday challenges a center in transition

Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Chicago Tribune
by Ofelia Casillas

Christmas morning will be the first time young residents at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center wake to find gifts just outside their glass cell doors.

These children and teenagers, most of whom are awaiting trial, will also have the chance to spend 12 hours a day, for 12 days, playing games: chess, basketball, even competing in a spelling bee, instead of watching endless hours of daytime television and missing home.

The changes are part of a larger attempt to improve conditions at the center, an effort that includes more restrictive rules for staff members accused of abusing residents, hearings for youth who break the rules and tastier lunch options than the usual cold cuts.

A recent tour of the facility, where the population tends to dip during the holiday season, offered a glimpse at life inside on the eve of new oversight.

Earlier this year, Cook County officials agreed to relinquish control of the center to the county's chief judge, Timothy Evans. Legislation allowing the change becomes effective Jan. 1.

The court will then take on some of the administrative responsibilities, such as power over purchasing and fiscal contracts.

In August, U.S. District Judge John Nordberg, who has overseen a battle between Cook County and the American Civil Liberties Union over the treatment of children at the facility, appointed a recognized national expert in juvenile justice to lead it.

Earl Dunlap once demonstrated his dedication to a Washington, D.C., juvenile facility he supervised by sleeping there. He insisted that he has not repeated the habit at the Cook County detention center.

"I've had to limit some of my radical behavior in my old age," he said.

Dunlap, who is in his early 60s, plans to confront the small group of "hardcore thugs" on staff at the facility who stand in the way of change.

"The good people will remain," he said. "The thugs will go."

Dunlap said he has taken some power to punish kids away from the staff and replaced that impulse with rules that ensure the residents are treated fairly.

"The power of the key has turned into the power of due process," he said.

Dunlap also addressed an issue some staff members have raised -- he is a white man overseeing a facility with mostly black residents and staff. Speaking about the staff, Dunlap added: "It's time for folks to step up and take responsibility for a population of kids that looks like them."

For now, Christmas is one of the many things staff members are working to improve.

Holidays used to be celebrated with candy-filled stockings, caroling volunteers and some decorations, workers said.

Today, teens hang blinking lights, sparkly garland and ornaments as they compete for best window display and a pizza party reward.

Staff members try to make sure that every child gets a call from family on Christmas Eve. In turn, kids are given cards to send home.

And good behavior is rewarded with microwaveable White Castle hamburgers.

The gifts outside cell doors will include thermal underwear, cards, board games and nicer-than-usual soaps, shampoos and toothbrushes.

During the holidays, residents can stay up late and watch movies. And the popcorn machine, which has not been used in three years, will pop again.

For teens who are homeless or unsafe at home, Christmas inside the detention center is a time to feel safe and rely on meals. Staff members estimate one in four residents are parents themselves and their sadness during the holidays is compounded by missing their own children as well as parents and siblings.

Some staff members volunteered to work extra hours and try to help residents get through what can be one of the toughest days of the year to be locked up.

"An emotional roller coaster -- that's what I would sum it up as," said Sherod Dent, a caseworker.

Dent said because some residents are able to go home before the holidays, incarceration is harder on those forced to remain. They are disappointed, resentful or just desolate.

"It's going to be hard," said a 15-year-old boy from Harvey, who was hanging Christmas lights like he does at home. "I'm used to doing it at home with my mom telling me what to do."

This is the third Christmas at the detention center for an 18-year-old man from Chicago Heights awaiting trial on murder charges. The third, he said, is easier than the first.

"It was bogus, you know, sad. You feel sorrow," he said. "I'll be home one day. That day will come."

At night, staff members said, the artistic creations of residents can be seen in their most glorious display.

It is then that the snowmen, angels and candy canes that cover unit windows glow in rows above the empty recreation yard below.

Recent Headlines

Suit: Man held at Cook County Jail for more than 3 weeks after charges dropped
Thursday, October 08, 2015
Chicago Tribune

Forest Preserves of Cook County Prepares for Trout Fishing Season
Wednesday, October 07, 2015
Special to

Panel: Forest Preserve must return land
Tuesday, October 06, 2015
Chicago Daily Law Bulletin

Cook County OKs Palos Park annexation plan
Tuesday, October 06, 2015
Chicago Tribune

Voting underway for Forest Preserves of Cook County’s fourth annual photo contest
Tuesday, October 06, 2015
Special to

County to raze some Oak Forest buildings
Tuesday, October 06, 2015
Chicago Tribune

The next big thing in health insurance may be in Oak Lawn
Thursday, October 01, 2015
Chicago Tribune

Kadner: Palos-Lemont land war going to county board
Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Chicago Tribune

Cook County judge orders Horizon Farms closed; future uncertain
Tuesday, September 29, 2015
Daily Herald

Police training canceled because of Illinois budget crisis
Monday, September 28, 2015
Chicago Sun-Times

Injury suit against zoo not barred
Monday, September 28, 2015
Chicago Daily Law Bulletin

Alvarez on new gun policy: 'If we can save one child’s life, we are doing our job'
Sunday, September 27, 2015
Chicago Sun-Times

Clerk Brown to Hold Amnesty Week, Oct. 5 - Oct. 9, 2015
Sunday, September 27, 2015
Special to

Stroger Hospital slammed for plan to merge pediatric, adult emergency rooms
Friday, September 25, 2015
Chicago Tribune

From the Village: Cook County Board of Review Property Assessment appeals now open
Wednesday, September 23, 2015
Wilmette Beacon

Cook County clerk hosts voter registration events Tuesday
Monday, September 21, 2015
Daily Herald

Chicago Zoological Society to Honor Recipients of 2015 Conservation Leadership Awards
Saturday, September 19, 2015

Former Recorder of Deeds clerk indicted on fraud charges
Saturday, September 19, 2015
Chicago Sun-Times

Evans names new Criminal Division head
Thursday, September 17, 2015
Chicago Daily Law Bulletin

Celebration of 100 Events Marks the Centennial Anniversary
Thursday, September 17, 2015
Special to

all news items

Paid for by Larry Suffredin and not at taxpayer expense. A Haymarket Production.