When the school day ends at Cook County’s temporary juvenile detention center in Chicago, hundreds of students must leave their textbooks behind, says the Associated Press. Such centers bar unsupervised use of hardcover books and basic school supplies like pencils out of concern the youths could use the items for violence. Child welfare advocates say the rules can create a prison-like atmosphere that discourages rehabilitation. “Any facility ought to be safe and secure enough for kids to have books,” said Betsy Clarke of the Juvenile Justice Initiative.
This month, a judge chose a former state corrections official to oversee changes at the detention center, stemming from a 2002 settlement of a lawsuit that contended the facility was mismanaged. The center is home to Chicago area youths between the ages of 10 and 17 who have been accused of committing crimes ranging from theft to murder. On any given day, between 450 and 500 youths in grades 4-12 are held. The average stay is 14 to 28 days but can last up to three months or longer.