For more than a decade, the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois has worked tirelessly to improve conditions for the young people held at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center (JTDC), one of the largest juvenile detention centers in the country.

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Jimmy Doe v. Cook County

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Dirksen Federal Building, home of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Photo used under a creative commons license from pobrecito33

The JTDC long has been recognized as a dangerous, violent, filthy and overcrowded place. Court-appointed experts and monitors in this case found numerous examples of staff acting out violently against the youth detained at the facility; other experts found the facility to be unsanitary -- with rodents and pests present throughout the JTDC; and, the children were simply not cared for -- including having to wear dirty clothes and underwear for days on end.

The latest development in this case is an argument before the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals (set for February 16, 2011) resulting from a union challenge to the plans of the Transitional Administrator (TA) to create a new staffing structure within the facility in order to bring the JTDC into constitutional compliance. The TA was appointed to run the facility by the district court after the County repeatedly failed to make improvements at the JTDC -- and delaying implementing these changes posed real dangers to our clients at the facility.

Chief Judge Holderman approved the TA’s reorganization plan, and the union appealed. In response to an effort by the Teamsters to block the TA's changes at the facility, the ACLU of Illinois will tell the appellate court in Chicago that the TA must be able to make these changes so that our clients are able to live in conditions that are in compliance with the court’s orders and the U.S. Constitution. We assert that the union's objections to the TA's plans (including requiring staff that interact with our clients to meet specific training and educational requirements) are not supported by state and federal law and must not take primacy over the constitutional interests of our clients.

We will provide updates on the case during and after the argument via facebook and twitter.