Efforts to improve conditions at Chicago’s Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center should start with the county abiding by the terms of an agreement signed more than two years ago, those monitoring the facility told the Chicago Tribune. The agreement, settling a federal class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of the center’s residents, mandated reforms in areas ranging from health care to disciplinary practices. The county has repeatedly failed to honor its terms, said Benjamin Wolf of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois “From the beginning their efforts to correct the situation have been superficial, self-protective, and designed to hide the problems instead of solving them,” said Wolf.
Cook County Public Safety Director J.W. Fairman said that county leaders are committed to honoring the terms of the agreement and have taken additional steps, such as bringing in representatives of a foundation specializing in the care of disadvantaged children. “You can’t turn a battleship on a dime,” he said yesterday after taking members of the media on a tour of the center. An earlier visit by the Tribune found disorganization and dirty conditions, but the halls of the facility were neat yesterday. A hearing by a County Board committee on whether an independent audit of the center should be conducted is set for tomorrow. A recent U.S. Department of Justice study found the juvenile center in 2004 led its peers in reported sexual misconduct by staff members against residents.