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Juvenile detention's short visiting hours ripped

Tuesday, September 06, 2005
Chicago Sun-Times
by STEVE PATTERSON Staff Reporter

When Elizabeth Aquivo went to visit her 16-year-old son over the weekend at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center, "it was like I was visiting him at a maximum security penitentiary."

She is among the parents questioning changes in visiting procedures that have cut the hours parents can spend with their children at the center, where juveniles charged with crimes are held while awaiting trial. While Supt. Jerry Robinson says the changes allow more visitation options for parents and improved security for staff and residents, Aquivo said children will likely act out as a result of less time with their parents.

"These kids only have so many hours a week to bond with their parents," she said. "This is a time of weakness for them, when they really need to see their parents more, to know we're supporting them, but now I might only get to see him a half-hour, maybe an hour a week and that's it."

Parents used to be able to visit the center at 1100 S. Hamilton up to 41/2 hours a week, but now face as little as 90 minutes a week with their children. While visits used to be in a TV room in the children's' living area, Robinson said officials have created a special visitation room, away from the living area and other residents.

Visits now happen three days a week, organized by floor, and must be scheduled a week in advance.

As many as 12 youths can have visitors at once and while visits are set for 30 minutes, he said if there is no wait, "we can be flexible."

'I want to support my son'

"We just want to be sure we don't have a large rush of visitors at the same time," he said.

While there were problems with items being smuggled inside the facility, Robinson said he was also concerned about the family visits going on in front of other residents who might never have visitors.

Robinson said "not a lot" of the center's 450 residents have regular visitors and "there can be a little animosity" when youths see fellow residents with regular visitors.

"But we do realize it's important for these kids to have visits from their families," he said.

But Aquivo wonders "why parents who are supportive should have to pay the price" for visiting their children. "I want to support my son," she said.

Aquivo also said she's had trouble getting through to make appointments and, when she does, finds many slots are already filled.

"Parents are signing a petition to reverse these new rules," she said. "We used to go upstairs, play with our kids, visit, but now we just sit at a table. It's ridiculous."


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