Youth prison's suicide-watch cells still lack suicide-proof beds

September 12, 2011

(Photo by Carlos Javier Ortiz)

A youth prison in the Chicago suburbs still does not have suicide-proof beds in all its rooms, including those where kids on suicide watch are kept. This comes two years after a young man incarcerated at the St. Charles facility killed himself.

Some of the rooms at St. Charles already have what are called "safety beds," specifically designed to prevent their use in suicides. But not in the confinement cells, where kids go when they're put on suicide watch.

Prison watchdog John Howard Association warned about this in July, calling it "absolutely unacceptable."

The state's Department of Juvenile Justice noted at the time that a contractor's bid had been accepted for new beds, and the director said he hoped to have them all installed "within the next month or so."

Two months later, those beds are still not installed in those rooms used for suicide watch, according to department spokesman Kendall Marlowe.

Marlowe notes that getting the suicide-proof furniture takes time, as it is made of custom-molded plastic. He says remodeling work has begun at St. Charles, and "anticipates" installation of safety furniture will be completed at all juvenile justice facilities by the end of this year.