For much of the past two decades, the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center has been considered a prime example of what is wrong with the nation’s juvenile justice system. Three times in the last 10 years, federal court actions have taken aim at patronage, overcrowding and unhealthy and unsafe conditions.
Earl Dunlap, who became the jail’s transitional administrator in 2007, said he was combating an entrenched culture of mismanagement. He has worked to address the problems, in part by firing 100 workers and hiring 400 new guards and staff members. Since February, he also has faced the added pressure of knowing that a pending federal court ruling could undo much of his work.