Suffredin- Changing County Government  
 

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

 

   
 
   
   
 
   
     
  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.

   
  The first blood bank in the world was established at Cook County Hospital by Dr. Bernard Fantus in 1937.
   
     
     
     



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

EDITORIAL: Foxx should steer clear of donations from property tax lawyers
Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Chicago Sun-Times

Restoration on Cook County Hospital could begin this summer
Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Curbed Chicago

26 inmates charged with violence toward guards at Cook County Jail
Saturday, January 13, 2018
Chicago Tribune

Cook County assessor not cooperating with investigation, IG complains
Saturday, January 13, 2018
Chicago Tribune

WASHINGTON: County repeal of soda tax was a mortal mistake
Friday, January 12, 2018
Chicago Sun-Times

SNEED EXCLUSIVE: Developer plans to make old county hospital a community anchor
Friday, January 12, 2018
Chicago Sun-Times

Western Springs Board reconsiders opting out of county minimum wage law
Friday, January 12, 2018
Chicago Tribune

Why more Chicago hospitals are getting into the housing business
Thursday, January 11, 2018
Crain's Chicago Business

Chicago hospitals help lower health care bills by housing the homeless
Thursday, January 11, 2018
Chicago Tribune

Dorothy Brown runs out of excuses on e-filing
Wednesday, January 10, 2018
Chicago Tribune

Ethics board fines Cook County assessor $41,000 over political donations from lawyers
Wednesday, January 10, 2018
Chicago Tribune

County wants seniors to confirm they’re still seniors
Wednesday, January 10, 2018
Evanston Now

Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown ordered to improve public access to electronic records
Tuesday, January 09, 2018
Chicago Tribune

Foxx focuses on ‘bigger picture’ in first year as state’s attorney
Tuesday, January 09, 2018
Chicago Sun-Times

As disparity in water rates persists, Cook County Board searches for answers
Tuesday, January 09, 2018
Chicago Tribune

Kim Foxx Concerned With ‘Justice, Not Convictions’
Monday, January 08, 2018
CBS Chicago

Foxx on hiring of outside lawyers by top aide: 'We're going to look at it from soups to nuts'
Monday, January 08, 2018
Chicago Fox 32

Interim chief supervision, probation officer named
Friday, January 05, 2018
Chicago Daily Law Bulletin

Roseland Community Hospital lays off 7 percent of staff, cuts pay
Friday, January 05, 2018
Chicago Tribune

Lake County spent $4.9 million on uncompleted e-filing system, records show
Thursday, January 04, 2018
Chicago Tribune

all news items

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