CHICAGO – The court-appointed administrator charged with bringing the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center (JTDC) up to constitutionally-appropriate standards will step aside on Tuesday, May 20th, when the facility is transferred to the full control of the Chief Judge of Cook County.
Earl Dunlap was named as the Transitional Administrator in July of 2007, and has served in the position since that time. Under the order approved by Judge James Holderman, Dunlap will remain at the facility as an observer for 90 days in order to assure a smooth transition to the new administration. Leonard Dixon has been appointed by Chief Judge Timothy Evans to oversee the facility.
The concluding order issued today is the latest step in litigation launched on behalf of juveniles at JTDC by the ACLU in June of 1999. The ACLU’s complaint filed at that time cited unendurable conditions and gross mismanagement of JTDC. The conditions cited included a lack of adequate food, a lack of educational services, unsanitary conditions and an unacceptable level of violence. Youth detained at JTDC described instances in which staff encouraged fighting among the juveniles as a form of “sport” or “entertainment.”
"It is easy now to forget that 16 years ago when the ACLU filed suit, the children held at the JTDC were subjected to violence and filthy conditions, and they often were denied essential health and mental health care,” said Benjamin S. Wolf, associate legal director at the ACLU of Illinois and lead counsel in the case.
“Today, conditions have been brought up to the constitutionally-mandated standard. While we celebrate today, we also must recommit ourselves to assure that the facility is not allowed to backslide into disrepair and neglect."
The case -- Jimmy Doe v. Cook County – has a long and complex history. Following the filing of the lawsuit, the ACLU and County reached a court-approved Memorandum of Agreement. After nearly three years of County inaction, the parties agreed to a second clean-up plan for the facility, but again little actual reform was implemented.
In July of 2007, the ACLU asked the Court to appoint Mr. Dunlap, a nationally-recognized expert in operating juvenile detention facilities and grant him independent power to make changes in the facility. As Judge Holderman noted in approving the end of the Transitional Administrator, Mr. Dunlap has made real progress at the facility, among the largest juvenile detention centers in the country.
“Things have really changed for the better for our clients,” added the ACLU’s Wolf. “I recall early in Mr. Dunlap’s tenure he literally had to send an employee to a store to buy underwear – just to make sure that the JTDC had an adequate stock.”
“Most of all, safety has been greatly improved inside the JTDC.”
Under the order issued today, the ACLU can return to court over the 90 day observation period if events warrant. Mr. Dunlap also will make reports to the court and to the parties in his role as an observer.
The ACLU has been assisted throughout the litigation by Colby Kingsbury, a partner at the Faegre Baker Daniels law firm.