Prison Watchdog Group Finds Unsafe Conditions at Suburban Jail for Juveniles

October 19, 2009

A prison watchdog group says young people incarcerated at an Illinois youth facility live in conditions that are unsanitary and unsafe. Close to three hundred young men are housed at the Illinois Youth Center in west suburban St. Charles. Hanke Gratteau with the John Howard Association says her group found problems such as unsafe bunk beds and exposed pipes. She says those conditions pose a danger for teenagers who haven't been assessed yet for mental health issues or suicide tendencies.

GRATTEAU: We're particulary struck that those kinds of residents would be housed in those kinds of conditions.

The group inspected St. Charles after a teenager committed suicide there last month. The John Howard Association is calling on the Department of Juvenile Justice and state leaders to upgrade living conditions at the center. In a statement, a spokeswoman for the department said it has asked for money for improvements, but does not believe conditions pose immediate risks to youth.