National agency calls for closure of Cook County Juvenille Temporary Detention Center

March 9, 2012

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A national criminal justice agency is calling for the closure of Cook County's long-troubled Juvenile Temporary Detention Center, and is suggesting the county needs to reform the way it deals with detaining juveniles.

The JTDC has a storied past, complete with citations over unsanitary conditions and overcrowding.  In a recent report, the National Council on Crime and Deliquency said conditions have greatly improved at the center, but the current design has security flaws and isn't worth renovating. The study, commissioned by the Jane Addams Juvenile Court Foundation, also called for an investigation into the disproportionate number of minorities in Cook County's juvenile detention centers. According to their research, African-American youth are detained at 46 times the rate of their white peers.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said Friday that significant work and resources have gone into the JTDC, even admist budget cuts and tightening in other areas. Preckwinkle said she too has seen progress at the center, but isn't opposed to closing it.

"It's what I want to do eventually, it's just not tomorrow," she said. "There are 300 kids in it and we have no other place to put them."

Preckwinkle said this isn't the first time she's considered closing the JTDC; she told reporters Friday she once said she wanted to "blow it up."  Both Preckwinkle and JTDC's transitional administrator, Earl Dunlap, agree the county would be better served by four to six smaller centers, rather than one large one.