Chicago, IL-(ENEWSPF)- Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle today hailed a federal court’s ruling that the County has reached substantial compliance in a federal lawsuit involving conditions at the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center (JTDC), and that control of the facility should be transferred to the Chief Judge of Cook County effective May 20.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge John Holderman came as the result of the County’s efforts to bring the JTDC, located at 1100 S. Hamilton, Chicago, up to standards, which involved numerous stakeholders and departments under the Office of the President, including her own office, Preckwinkle said.
"We’ve invested a lot in this facility, including installation of a secure video system, a tracking system for employee movement and wellness checks on youth. We have contracted for the implementation of a state-of-the-art resident management information system to track real-time data, moving the facility towards fully electronic medical records," Preckwinkle said.
"Today’s ruling is the result of years of collaboration between the Justice Advisory Council, Capital Planning, Facilities Management, Bureau of Technology, the JTDC Transitional Administrator, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which brought the original lawsuit, the County’s Budget Office, our counsel in the case — Assistant State’s Attorneys John Curran and Andy Creighton — and with the appointment of Superintendent Dixon, the Chief Judge’s office.
"Additionally, we have established rooms in each housing unit for young people to have private medical and mental health consultations, and improvements to facilities for suicide prevention. Many of these improvements will pay for themselves by protecting young people and employees and making us eligible for state reimbursements for certain expenses."
The ruling ends federal control of the JTDC under Transitional Administrator Earl Dunlap, appointed by the court in 2007. By agreement of the parties, Dunlap will monitor the facility for the next 90 days and the case will then be dismissed unless good cause is shown to continue.
"It is easy now to forget that 16 years ago when the ACLU filed suit, the children held at the JTDC were subjected to violence and filthy conditions, and they often were denied essential health and mental health care," said Benjamin F. Wolf, ACLU of Illinois Associate Legal Director. Wolf has been the lawyer representing the children detained at the JTDC.
"Although previous administrations were slow to respond to the crying need of the youth held at the facility, we have made great progress over the past few years working cooperative with County officials, led by President Preckwinkle, and under the remarkable leadership of Transitional Administrator Earl Dunlap and his staff. We must never permit the facility to backslide into disrepair and neglect."
"The challenge of reforming the JTDC has been a complex and often frustrating process. An undertaking of this nature, even with the authority provided by the U.S. Federal Court, if it is to be successful, requires the leadership and cooperation of many stakeholders in the Cook County community," said Transitional Administrator Dunlap. "It would be irresponsible and frankly an injustice not to acknowledge the proactive efforts of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, many of the members of the Cook County Board of Commissioners and specifically the President of the Cook County Board of Commissioners, Toni Preckwinkle.
"President Preckwinkle’s leadership and solution-oriented approach toward improving the ‘conditions of confinement’ at the JTDC has served to expedite and all but ‘closed the door on this litigation. As a result, the quality of life for residents and staff of the JTDC is greatly improved and now meets the requirements as set forth by the U.S. Federal Court."
Preckwinkle said the conditions youths in the facility faced prior the County’s investments "unconscionable", and said management systems at the facility was sorely lacking. "All of the projects had been stalled before I took office, and I made it a priority to move them forward," Preckwinkle said.
"With these improvements, those youth who are assigned to the JTDC will be able to live, learn and receive the supports they need in more appropriate settings, and the technology for better management control of the facility is vastly improved.
"I look forward to working with the new Superintendent and all of the other juvenile justice stakeholders to continue our progress and work to reduce our reliance on detention."