Delayed by months, suicide-proof beds still not in suicide-watch cells at youth prison

December 19, 2011

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An Illinois youth prison still does not have suicide-proof beds in rooms where kids on suicide watch are held. The installation has been plagued by delays.

Illinois' Department of Juvenile Justice had "anticipate[d]" suicide-proof furniture would be installed at all its facilities by the end of 2011. That date's now been pushed to late February 2012, because, the department said last week, it took longer than expected to customize the furniture.

Particularly striking: At the St. Charles facility, the cells where kids go when they're put on suicide watch still do not have the specially designed "safety beds."

"While they do not have the new furniture installed, those rooms do not have the...bunk-bed style beds that were the great risk for suicide," said Kendall Marlow, a department spokesman. "That - combined with the fact that that room is monitored once every 5 minutes - mitigates the risk."

Prison watchdog the John Howard Association five months ago called it "absolutely unacceptable" that those rooms still lacked suicide proof furniture.

The issue took on extra weight following a suicide at the St. Charles prison in 2009.