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Children in detention

Sunday, September 18, 2005
Chicago Tribune
by Wenona Thompson, Girl Talk, Laurie Schaffner
Letter to the Editor

Chicago -- Having worked to improve the situation of court-involved children for several years, we were delighted to see that that the editors of the Tribune were concerning themselves with the conditions of confinement for juveniles at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center.

Our particular focus is on court-involved young women. In the last two decades, the numbers of girls in correctional facilities have risen exponentially in almost every offense category and at a pace outstripping that of boys. Various studies of young women in juvenile detention facilities have demonstrated the following:

- From 40 percent to 92 percent of the young women had a history of physical abuse and sexual assault and abuse.

- More than 80 percent of the young women met the criteria for one or more lifetime psychiatric disorders and 70 percent were symptomatic within six months of being interviewed for that particular study.

- Upward of 95 percent of the young women engaged in three or more of HIV/AIDS risk behaviors and about two-thirds reported engaging in 10 or more HIV/AIDS risk behaviors.

For these reasons and a host of others, we consider the population of young women in JTDC in a crisis situation.

For the last six months, a group of formerly incarcerated girls has worked to create a bill of health rights for incarcerated girls. We will be presenting this document to the Cook County Board of Commissioners, administrators at JTDC and to the public soon.



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