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Setting the record straight

Wednesday, August 31, 2005
Chicago Sun-Times
by John Stroger, Jr.

To ensure that the 5 million residents of Cook County have accurate information relative to the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center, I must clarify some of the misinformation and distortions in ''Juvenile center staff face scrutiny'' [metro story, Aug. 18].

The very first sentence, ''Criminal background checks have been ordered on all employees . . .'' distorts what has been the process for hiring. Background checks and drug screening are standard practice for all job applicants, and employees are subjected to review investigations to ensure they are still fit to work with minors.

In 2004, the National Commission on Correctional Health Care accredited the detention center. Moreover, in a report written within the last year, the court-appointed monitor acknowledged that accreditation is a significant achievement and stated that the center has ''achieved the distinction of meeting 100 percent of essential and important standards, a fairly rare achievement for any facility, much less a facility seeking accreditation for the first time.''

It cannot be overemphasized that the office of the Cook County state's attorney has requested that Benjamin Wolf, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, provide any information that may involve abuse by a staff member. Wolf has repeatedly failed to share any specifics.

As for the U.S. Justice Department's 2004 study reporting sexual misconduct by detention center staff, the county's investigation found that of eight allegations, only one had merit. However, the complainant opted to recant.

The assertion that the center has become a ''patronage dumping ground'' and that ''so many'' of the center's employees live within the 8th Ward is totally inaccurate. In the 11 years that I have been County Board president, a total of eight people -- or less than 2 percent of the total employee population hired by the center -- actually have resided within the 8th Ward.

As Cook County government's chief executive officer, I will continue to do my absolute best to ensure that the county's detention and correctional facilities have the necessary physical and personnel resources to provide detainees with every opportunity they need to turn their lives around and become productive members of society.

John H. Stroger Jr., president,
Cook County Board of Commissioners


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