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Jail inquiry pushed back
Outside audit of juvenile lockup sent to committee

Friday, September 09, 2005
Daily Southtown
by Jonathan Lipman

Cook County commissioners wrangled Thursday over the best way to address problems at the county's juvenile jail, which has been described as barely functional.

Commissioners Forrest Claypool and Larry Suffredin unsuccessfully pushed for an immediate outside management audit of the facility as well as Provident Hospital, which also has been under the microscope since a state report found patient neglect and mistreatment.

The board decided instead to send the proposal and several others to committee for study, a move Claypool (D-Chicago) said was "dangerous to the most vulnerable members of our county."

"Only an independent audit will allow us to get behind the walls of these institutions and do something now instead of later," Claypool said. "There is urgency here."

County Board President John Stroger said allegations of problems at the juvenile jail are politically motivated, and he defended jail Supt. Jerry Robinson as qualified.

"These people are trained. And they're not here because they were political people," Stroger said.

But Stroger acknowledged some problems may need investigating and encouraged the board's juvenile justice committee to meet quickly to address issues.

"We've got some good people, and we've got some bad people," Stroger said.

Recent reports have said the jail is mostly run by people with political connections to Stroger and is badly managed. The reports concluded people with criminal convictions were working at the center, conditions were filthy and management has let overtime spiral out of control.

Robinson said some reforms are under way, including better control of employees' work hours. The board approved Thursday the purchase of a new time clock that uses employees' fingerprints.

Stroger's chief of staff, James Whigham, said all employees are being checked for criminal convictions.

Also Thursday, county officials said Provident Hospital had addressed the problems with patient care found in an Illinois Department of Public Health inspection in July and has been given a passing grade by the agency.



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