For decades, Chicago’s Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center has been assailed as a depot for children who were locked up in violent, unsanitary, overcrowded conditions without much consideration given to their mental or physical well-being, says the Chicago Tribune. Even after a lawsuit, child advocates say the hulking off-white building serves more as a jail than a temporary residence for youths waiting to see a judge.
County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is pitching a new approach for a juvenile justice system that as recently as four years ago was so broken, a federal judge brought in an outsider to take it over. “I think we need to do everything we can to empty this building out,” Preckwinkle said after touring it yesterday. That means putting children in group homes, monitored home confinement and other community-based programs where advocates say youths have better opportunities for counseling, job training, and other life-skill instruction. “What we need to do is have a number of smaller, secure safe homes for kids scattered around the county rather than having one huge juvenile prison,” Preckwinkle told the Tribune.