Disability Watch Group report claims ‘inhumane’ and ‘unfair’ treatment of youths at Cook County Juvenile Detention Center and calls for its closure


A new report released by the watchdog says some young people felt “frightened”, “desperate” and “like dogs” when restrained at the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center. Shut down.

Equip for Equality, a nonprofit organization and federally-designated oversight agency for people with disabilities in Illinois, announced that from November 2021 through January of this year, juvenile training schools and schools will provide 1,000 students, staff and administrators. After interviewing for hours, they released a 96-page report.

Gearing for Equality managing attorney Rachel Shapiro told the Tribune on Friday that the most “eye-opening” thing she learned when speaking to young people in detention centers was the use of physical restraints.

“Two students said they felt like dogs. It was a problem, so how commonplace it seemed to me, to witness people being restrained with injuries… It’s so sad to imagine being treated like that, so the report’s That part speaks to me the most,” Shapiro said.

Shapiro said other recommendations in the report were better oversight and coordination between detention centers and agencies with adequate auditing capacity. Detailed documentation of incidents occurring in detention centers and schools.

The report, titled “Youth at Risk: Stopping Civil Rights Violations against Vulnerable and Disabled Students in Cook County Juvenile Detention Center and Alternative Schools,” describes the detention center and the Nancy B. Jefferson Alternative High School. (both at 1100 South Hamilton Avenue)

According to the report, they propose to move young people to “smaller community-based settings.”

“Illinois needs to destroy the school-to-prison pipeline, and redesigning and reforming the juvenile temporary detention facility system is critical to achieving this goal,” said Equip for Equality. Zena Naiditch, President and CEO of , said in a statement.

“An insurmountable barrier to modernizing and reforming the state system for youth in custody is the plethora of local and state judicial and enforcement agencies that play a role in overseeing the system,” Naidich said. . “As a result, accountability systems are ineffective and it is illusory to determine who is to blame.”

Key report findings include routine violations of the civil rights of students with disabilities in prisons, the use of unjust and excessive physical restraint and segregation, often as punishment, in defiance of state law. will be

“By not following the law or its own policies and relying heavily on the use of physical restraints, JTDC inflicts further trauma and despair on these vulnerable young people,” said Deputy Special Education Rights Clinic at Equip for Equality. President Olga Pribyl said. in a statement. “I hope our leaders will take the necessary steps to move to a positive, community-based model.”

Other findings included in the report found that the prison special education system was “significantly inadequate,” with between 30% and 50% of young people enrolled as special education students, and that local government officials It’s a problem at the other 15 local juvenile detention centers we called. for detailed monitoring of these locations.

A Chicago Public Schools statement about the report said the school district is “committed to providing a quality instructional and educational experience for all students at all schools, including alternative schools.”

In the report, the district said it had “concerns about the validity and reliability of the data,” and provided feedback to the nonprofit on its findings and recommendations, stating that it “ensures students We will continue to work with Equip for Equality to ensure service.” They need and want accurate information shared with the public. ”

The alternative schools are “very unique” because about 80% of the student population has been in school for less than 45 days, while some students have been in school for only 2 days.

“Our top priority is to support our students through all available resources, including quality instruction, social and emotional support, and community partnerships,” CPS said in a statement.

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“The Equip for Equality report contains several inaccurate statements that suggest alternative school student We do not fully appreciate the tremendous efforts that school districts are making to support , and growing community partnerships, such as Kennedy King College, that allow students to earn college credits while still in high school. .”

Meanwhile, Cook County Commissioner Toni Prekwinkle said in a statement sent Friday night:

“We thank Equip for Equality and the Special Education Rights Clinic for their attention to issues related to education in juvenile detention centers,” said Preckwinkle. “Although my authority does not extend to detention center practices, I share the concerns raised by this report, the JTDC Advisory Board, and the 2022 report. blue ribbon committee convened by the presiding judge’s office. ”


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Written by Natalia Chi

Chicago Popular; Chicago breaking news, weather and live video. Covering local politics, health, traffic and sports for Chicago, the suburbs and northwest Indiana.

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