WBEZ | Arthur Bishop http://www.wbez.org/tags/arthur-bishop Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Quinn searching nationwide for new DCFS chief http://www.wbez.org/news/quinn-searching-nationwide-new-dcfs-chief-109790 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Arthur Bishop from Sun-Times.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Gov. Pat Quinn is doing a national search for the next chief of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services in the wake of the current director resigning after only a month on the job, the governor&rsquo;s office said Thursday.</p><p>Arthur Bishop, 61, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/dcfs-chief-resigns-after-investigation-his-past-109780">submitted his resignation letter Wednesday</a> following Chicago Sun-Times and WBEZ reports that revealed <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/new-dcfs-boss-pleaded-guilty-stealing-social-service-agencys-clients-109715">Bishop had a theft conviction and paternity case in his past</a>. The resignation was announced shortly after the news organizations had posted a story in which a daughter, Erica Bishop, 27, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/daughter-dcfs-chief-says-he-ignored-her-109778">questioned how Bishop could lead DCFS given that he&rsquo;d shunned her for her entire life</a> &mdash; even after DNA testing proved she was his daughter nearly 11 years ago, she said.</p><p>Quinn had picked Arthur Bishop, who formerly headed the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice, to bring stability to an agency beset by financial scandal in 2011 and, more recently, furor over the abuse-and-neglect deaths of dozens of children who&rsquo;d had contact with the agency before they died.</p><p>DCFS has had four different chiefs since the start of November. Richard Calica, appointed in the wake of the 2011 contracting mess, resigned that month as he battled cancer. He died in December.</p><p>Denise Gonzales, Calica&rsquo;s chief of staff, was interim director before Bishop&rsquo;s appointment last month.</p><p>The new acting director is attorney and social worker Bobbie M. Gregg, who has worked at DCFS for about a year. Gregg, 57, is now deputy director of the agency&rsquo;s Bureau of Operations. Her appointment as interim director is to expire within 60 days.</p><p>Two key lawmakers called on Quinn to do a national search Thursday. Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson said such a search had already been launched.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve had a rotating door, unfortunately, in the last several months in this department. So it&rsquo;s been hard for any leadership to gain traction,&rdquo; said state Sen. Julie Morrison, D-Deerfield, chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Issues Relating to DCFS. &ldquo;I would encourage the governor to look within the state and outside the state for a director who brings some innovation along with the experience&rdquo; to run the agency.</p><p>State Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, who chairs the House Appropriations-Human Resources Committee, said it&rsquo;s important that Quinn&rsquo;s next pick for DCFS boss be given a chance to run the agency long-term &mdash; regardless of whether Quinn loses the November election to a Republican.<br />&ldquo;The right person would be the right person &mdash; whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, a Whig or a Tory,&rdquo; Harris said.</p><p>The next director, Harris said, also should be prepared to run the agency on a tighter budget, given an anticipated drop in state revenues next year.<br />&ldquo;The safety net for these kids is going to become immensely frayed,&rdquo; he said, noting DCFS needs &ldquo;somebody who can steady the ship immediately.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Chris Fusco and Frank Main are Chicago Sun-Times staff reporters. Tony Arnold is a reporter for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/tonyjarnold">@tonyjarnold</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 28 Feb 2014 10:47:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/quinn-searching-nationwide-new-dcfs-chief-109790 DCFS chief resigns after investigation into his past http://www.wbez.org/news/dcfs-chief-resigns-after-investigation-his-past-109780 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/bishop.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The newly appointed director of Illinois&rsquo; child welfare system resigned Wednesday, after one month on the job.</p><p>In his <a href="http://llnw.wbez.org/Bishop_02-26-14.pdf" target="_blank">resignation letter</a>, Arthur Bishop writes that for 20 years, he&rsquo;s been dedicated to the best interest of children who are in the care of the Department of Children and Family Services.</p><p>He goes on to write, &ldquo;I am aware that we are in the midst of a contested election, and that my documented accomplishments, dedication, and almost 20 years of exemplary work are in this environment, simply irrelevant.</p><p>&ldquo;While your political rivals may be willing to attack me in an effort to obtain some modicum of political advantage, I cannot agree to be used as a distraction to the real issues that face the State and the children that remain in State custody.&rdquo;</p><p>Bishop&rsquo;s abrupt resignation comes after recent reports by WBEZ and the <em>Chicago Sun-Times </em>that looked into his past.</p><blockquote><p><strong>Related: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/child-abuse-neglect-deaths-illinois-remain-high-dcfs-involved-cases-109545" target="_blank">Child-abuse, neglect deaths in Illinois remain high in DCFS-involved cases</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>The news organizations found public records showing Bishop had <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/new-dcfs-boss-pleaded-guilty-stealing-social-service-agencys-clients-109715" target="_blank">pleaded guilty 20 years ag</a>o to stealing from clients of his former employer, a mental health center on Chicago&rsquo;s West Side. Bishop later said he only pleaded guilty to end the stress the ongoing case was causing his family.</p><p>Reporters also found Bishop had been sued 11 years ago for child support. Bishop&rsquo;s daughter, Erica, is now 27. She <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/daughter-dcfs-chief-says-he-ignored-her-109778" target="_blank">recently told WBEZ and the <em>Sun-Times</em></a> that Bishop had never been involved in her life, and she questioned whether he deserved to be in charge of the department that oversees neglected children.</p><p>Paperwork signed by Quinn and filed with the Secretary of State&rsquo;s office, indicates he&rsquo;s named another DCFS employee, Bobbie Gregg, interim director.</p><p><em>Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="http://twitter.com/tonyjarnold" target="_blank">@tonyjarnold</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 26 Feb 2014 16:51:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/dcfs-chief-resigns-after-investigation-his-past-109780 Daughter of DCFS chief says he ignored her http://www.wbez.org/news/daughter-dcfs-chief-says-he-ignored-her-109778 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/bishop-cst-xxxx14-01.JPG" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr"><em><strong>An update to this developing story:</strong> Paperwork filed Wednesday with the Illinois Secretary of State&rsquo;s Office and signed by Gov. Pat Quinn indicates he has named a new acting director of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/dcfs-chief-resigns-after-investigation-his-past-109780" target="_blank">replacing Arthur Bishop</a>.</em></p><p>A daughter of the director of the state agency overseeing the welfare of children wonders how he can do the job since he has shunned her for her entire life.</p><p>In the nearly 11 years since DNA testing proved that Arthur D. Bishop was her father, Erica Bishop has had two kids of her own &mdash; a boy and a girl who&rsquo;ve never met their grandfather.</p><p>To her, the man now charged with caring for the state&rsquo;s most troubled children is nothing more than a &ldquo;sperm donor,&rdquo; not her dad.</p><p>&ldquo;He&rsquo;s supposed to be protecting the kids of the state &mdash; and you&rsquo;ve got a kid out here you never done anything for,&rdquo; Erica Bishop, now 27, says. &ldquo;He left me as a father, which I think that&rsquo;s unfair to me and it&rsquo;s unfair to my kids. . . . As far as them wanting to keep giving him higher positions to look over people&rsquo;s kids, I don&rsquo;t agree.&rdquo;</p><p>Erica Bishop agreed to be interviewed by WBEZ and the<em> Chicago Sun-Times</em> after the news organizations <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/new-dcfs-boss-pleaded-guilty-stealing-social-service-agencys-clients-109715">disclosed earlier this month</a> that Bishop pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor theft charge in 1995 for stealing from clients of a social service agency and was sued by Erica&rsquo;s mother for back child support in a 2003 paternity case.</p><p>Quinn administration aides have said those court cases are decades old and shouldn&rsquo;t tarnish the stellar work that Arthur Bishop has done as a child advocate &mdash; from his time as a DCFS caseworker to his last job as head of the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice.</p><p>Erica Bishop bristles at that suggestion.</p><p>&ldquo;I haven&rsquo;t went away. I&rsquo;m never gonna go away,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;This is just something he stuck on the backburner, and I&rsquo;ve been on the backburner for [nearly] 28 years. . . . So for people to say I&rsquo;m in the past, I&rsquo;m not in the past. I&rsquo;m in the past only because nobody knows about me.</p><p>&ldquo;You supposed to be a child advocate and a minister and all this stuff. . . . I watched videos of him on YouTube. All these little boys giving him so much praise . . . sitting down and talking to him like a father. A father? Seriously? A father? He&rsquo;s sitting down telling these little boys, &lsquo;I want to talk to you. I want to have a father-to-son talk with you.&rsquo; You never had a father-and-daughter talk with me.&rdquo;</p><p>Arthur Bishop, 61, has declined interview requests. His appointment as DCFS director still must be confirmed by the Illinois Senate; no date for his confirmation hearing has been set. DCFS and the Quinn administration did not immediately respond to requests for comment.</p><p>Erica&rsquo;s mother, Yolanda O&rsquo;Connor, claimed in court filings that Arthur Bishop knew Erica was his daughter from the time she was born in 1986, while Bishop was married to his current wife.</p><p>He &ldquo;denies his own daughter&rsquo;s existence when he knows in his heart of hearts that he visited us on numerous occasions at my parents&rsquo; house when she was a child,&rdquo; O&rsquo;Connor, who didn&rsquo;t have an attorney, wrote in a December 2003 court filing.</p><p>Arthur Bishop maintained he&rsquo;d never met Erica and didn&rsquo;t know O&rsquo;Connor claimed Erica was his daughter until O&rsquo;Connor served him with court papers.</p><p>The case ended with O&rsquo;Connor winning a $4,175 judgment and health insurance coverage for Erica until she turned 18. But a judge denied O&rsquo;Connor&rsquo;s request for back child support after Arthur Bishop argued she&rsquo;d &ldquo;in fact concealed&rdquo; that he was Erica&rsquo;s father.</p><p>Erica Bishop recalls meeting her father when she was in high school before her mom sued him.</p><p>Her mother, she says, drove a friend and her to meet Bishop at his DCFS office at the Thompson Center, where Bishop at first mistook Erica&rsquo;s friend as his daughter even though the two &ldquo;have the same face.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;He went to my friend and talked to her. And I&rsquo;m like, &lsquo;Hello? She&rsquo;s not your daughter, I am,&rsquo; &rdquo; Erica Bishop recalls. &ldquo;Honestly, I was actually excited. And he killed my excitement.&rdquo;</p><p>The five- to 10-minute encounter was the longest the two have spoken,&nbsp; but Erica Bishop has seen her father &mdash; and her half-siblings &mdash; at various times.</p><p>Arthur Bishop has lived in Maywood for years, and Erica Bishop grew up in nearby Bellwood. Erica&rsquo;s stepbrother went to the same high school as Bishop&rsquo;s son and daughter, she says.</p><p>Erica, who paid for her own college and now works as a waitress, says she would have liked the opportunity to get to know her siblings. &ldquo;Somewhere down the line, yeah, I wanted to know my brother and sister because I think we deserve to know each other. They might have kids. And I have kids,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>She also says she isn&rsquo;t interested in getting any more money from Bishop, who makes $150,000 a year as DCFS chief.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s fortunate that I did have somebody to take care of me and show me how to ride a bike and see me off to prom and go to all my graduations: high school, 8th grade, college,&rdquo; she says of the stepfather who helped raise her.</p><p>&ldquo;He has not been there for any of that,&rdquo; she says of Arthur Bishop. &ldquo;Financially, he can keep his money. He can die with it.</p><p>&ldquo;I feel like I was cheated. You took care of your other kids. Why you didn&rsquo;t take care of me? . . . All I want is an explanation.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Chris Fusco and Frank Main are </em>Sun-Times<em> staff reporters. <a href="http://twitter.com/tonyjarnold" target="_blank">Tony Arnold</a> is a reporter for WBEZ.</em></p></p> Wed, 26 Feb 2014 15:42:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/daughter-dcfs-chief-says-he-ignored-her-109778 New DCFS boss pleaded guilty to stealing from social service agency's clients http://www.wbez.org/news/new-dcfs-boss-pleaded-guilty-stealing-social-service-agencys-clients-109715 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/IYC-JHN-040512-6_26049275.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Gov. Pat Quinn&rsquo;s new director of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services pleaded guilty to stealing from clients of a West Side social service agency and later became embroiled in a child-support battle over a daughter he said he never knew he&rsquo;d fathered, records show.</p><p>Arthur D. Bishop, 61, had a felony theft charge pending against him when then-Gov. Jim Edgar&rsquo;s administration hired him as a DCFS caseworker in 1995. He&rsquo;d been accused of bilking patients of the Bobby E. Wright Comprehensive Community Mental Health Center out of more than $9,000, fighting the case for more than two years before pleading guilty to a reduced charge of misdemeanor theft.</p><p><strong>Paternity case</strong></p><p>Court records also show a paternity case was filed against Bishop in 2003, when he was a DCFS deputy director. DNA tests showed he was the father of Erica Bishop, then 17.</p><p>Her mother, Yolanda O&rsquo;Connor, said Bishop knew Erica was his daughter from the time she was born in 1986. Bishop said in court papers he&rsquo;d never met the girl and didn&rsquo;t know O&rsquo;Connor claimed Erica was his daughter until she served him with court papers.</p><p>Bishop, who was married to another woman when Erica was born, &ldquo;denies his own daughter&rsquo;s existence when he knows in his heart of hearts that he visited us on numerous occasions at my parents&rsquo; house when she was a child,&rdquo; O&rsquo;Connor said in a December 2003 court filing. Bishop &ldquo;even asked me if he could live in with me if his wife put him out after she learned the truth. . . . All I want is for [Bishop] to just be a man about the situation and take responsibility for his child.&rdquo;</p><p>O&rsquo;Connor secured a $4,175 judgment and health insurance coverage for Erica until she turned 18, records show. But a judge denied her request for back child support after Bishop argued she&rsquo;d never sought &ldquo;support of any kind&rdquo; from him and &ldquo;in fact concealed&rdquo; that he was Erica&rsquo;s father.</p><p>Bishop declined to be interviewed for this story.</p><p><strong>Governor stands by appointment</strong></p><p>Quinn administration aides say the governor stands by his decision to make Bishop the state&rsquo;s top child-welfare official.</p><p>&ldquo;The governor appointed Arthur Bishop because of his decades of excellent work and respected leadership at the Departments of Juvenile Justice and Children and Family Services,&rdquo; Quinn press secretary Brooke Anderson said. &ldquo;The governor feels he has the right experience to lead this very difficult agency.&rdquo;</p><p>DCFS spokeswoman Karen Hawkins said: &ldquo;We believe it&rsquo;s inappropriate to raise decades-old issues that have long been resolved and have nothing to do with his performance as director.&rdquo;</p><p>Bishop, who makes $150,000 a year, takes over DCFS at a pivotal time. The agency admitted in December to undercounting the number of child-abuse and neglect deaths in Illinois following a series of Chicago Sun-Times and WBEZ reports that prompted criticism of the agency from legislators and some child advocates.</p><p>The agency also has been accused of failing to keep a close eye on its finances. In December, Attorney General Lisa Madigan sued South Side businessman George E. Smith, a friend of former DCFS director Erwin McEwen, to recover millions of dollars in state grant money Smith allegedly misspent. No criminal charges have been filed.</p><p>Quinn brought in Richard H. Calica to reform the agency. But Calica died of cancer in December, and Quinn then shifted Bishop from his post heading the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice &mdash; a job he&rsquo;d held since August 2010 &mdash; back to DCFS, where he previously worked from 1995 to 2010.</p><p><strong>Early work in counseling</strong></p><p>Before his career in state government, Bishop was a substance-abuse counselor at the Bobby E. Wright center. According to his Sept. 17, 1993, arrest report, he received $9,262 from clients and failed to turn over that money to the center between May 5, 1992, and July 23, 1993.</p><p>Bishop created a &ldquo;bogus&rdquo; program for convicted drunken drivers, said Lucy Lang-Chappell, former executive director of the center, who was his boss. He was improperly taking money from patients and providing them with forms they wrongly believed would allow them to get their driver&rsquo;s licenses back, though the center wasn&rsquo;t licensed by the state to provide that service at the time, Chappell said in an interview.</p><p>She said the scheme was exposed when a patient came to the center in July 1993 with a currency exchange check the patient wrote to the center for his participation in the DUI program. The man said Bishop visited his home that day and insisted he replace the check with one written directly to Bishop, according to Chappell.</p><p>Chappell said she confronted Bishop with what the patient told her &mdash; and fired him on the spot.</p><p>The center was forced to reimburse &ldquo;a stream of patients&rdquo; for checks and cash they&rsquo;d given Bishop, Chappell said. An insurance policy eventually covered the center&rsquo;s losses, she said.</p><p>Another employee of the center also pleaded guilty in the theft, records show.</p><p>Bishop &ldquo;really betrayed me and everybody else at the agency,&rdquo; Chappell said. &ldquo;The thing that really saddens me is that this is a man who is supposed to be over children and families &mdash; and this kind of thing happened. &hellip; He did something to the patients that was totally unethical, against the rules of the agency, and we were liable.&rdquo;</p><p>Bishop has maintained that, despite his guilty plea, he was innocent of the theft allegations. At a 1994 court hearing, his lawyer said Bishop turned over the money he collected to Chappell, who says that&rsquo;s &ldquo;totally false.&rdquo; Chappell, now retired, wasn&rsquo;t accused of any wrongdoing, and other current and former Bobby Wright employees backed up her recollection of events in interviews with Sun-Times and WBEZ reporters.</p><p>In 2010, before Bishop was appointed director of the Department of Juvenile Justice, he gave a written statement to the Illinois Senate asserting that he was wrongly accused.</p><p><strong>&#39;Totally false accusation&#39;</strong></p><p>&ldquo;In 1993, following an increasingly strained professional relationship with the CEO, Dr. Lucy Lang-Chappell, resulting in a verbal disagreement regarding programming, I walked out of her office,&rdquo; Bishop wrote. &ldquo;Soon thereafter, I was informed that she had made allegations that I had stolen funds. This was a totally false accusation.&rdquo;</p><p>Bishop told the Senate he made an &ldquo;agonizing&rdquo; decision to plead guilty to the misdemeanor to end the strain on his family.</p><p>Chappell was incredulous after being read Bishop&rsquo;s statement. &ldquo;He took the money from numerous patients,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>While Bishop&rsquo;s felony case was pending &mdash; and after he was fired from the Bobby Wright center &mdash; he worked briefly at Maryville Academy before being hired as a DCFS caseworker in March 1995, records show.</p><p>When he applied to DCFS in 1994, state officials could not consider the arrest in weighing whether to hire him, according to Hawkins, who said: &ldquo;By law, under the Human Rights Act . . . DCFS is forbidden from considering arrests in making employment decisions &mdash; and this matter was still in the courts.&rdquo;</p><p>On Nov. 2, 1995, Bishop pleaded guilty to misdemeanor theft and was sentenced to a year of conditional discharge, records show. He didn&rsquo;t have to make restitution, Hawkins said.</p><p>&ldquo;Director Bishop has consistently disclosed the details of this guilty plea on state applications,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Bishop, an ordained minister, was in the news in the late 1990s when he was a DCFS caseworker involved in a high-profile custody battle involving the boy known as &ldquo;Baby T.&rdquo; Ald. Edward Burke (14th) and his wife Anne Burke, now an Illinois Supreme Court justice, ultimately won guardianship of the child.</p><p>O&rsquo;Connor filed the paternity case against Bishop in March 2003, with the court summons listing his Maywood home and his DCFS office. Bishop hired Marina E. Ammendola &mdash; the lawyer who represented the Burkes in the Baby T case.</p><p>O&rsquo;Connor, who didn&rsquo;t have a lawyer, said she sued Bishop to get him to help with college expenses for Erica, who&rsquo;s now a medical assistant.</p><p>&ldquo;He didn&rsquo;t want to do anything,&rdquo; O&rsquo;Connor said. &ldquo;He has a good heart. But my daughter wants to nail him to the cross because he&rsquo;s never been there.&rdquo;</p><p>O&rsquo;Connor said Erica&rsquo;s stepfather, not Bishop,&nbsp; &ldquo;taught her how to ride a bike, how to drive. He was there for her at prom. If [Bishop] wants to make things right, tell him to call her and talk to her. . . . Apologize.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Frank Main and Chris Fusco are Sun-Times staff reporters. Tony Arnold is a reporter for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="http://twitter.com/tonyjarnold" target="_blank">@tonyjarnold</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 17 Feb 2014 00:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/new-dcfs-boss-pleaded-guilty-stealing-social-service-agencys-clients-109715 Arthur Bishop named new head of Illinois DCFS http://www.wbez.org/news/arthur-bishop-named-new-head-illinois-dcfs-109572 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/bishop.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois&rsquo; child welfare department has a new director.</p><p>Arthur Bishop has been in charge of the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice, the agency that oversees the state&rsquo;s prisons for young people.</p><p>Now he&rsquo;ll run the Department of Children and Family Services, which is tasked with protecting children who are wards of the state and working with families who need help with their children.</p><p>In a statement, Gov. Pat Quinn touts Bishop&rsquo;s long career working with families.</p><p>&ldquo;I am confident that he will carry out the mission of the department by making the safety and well-being of children across the state priority number one,&rdquo; Quinn said.</p><p>Bishop worked for DCFS beginning in the 1990s before he became the director of the juvenile prisons in 2010. Quinn said that during Bishop&rsquo;s time at DJJ, the population of the youth prisons has dropped to below 900. In the years just prior, the youth prison population had been closer to 1,500.</p><p>Bishop succeeds Richard Calica, who had resigned from DCFS shortly before he died from an illness in December. Calica&rsquo;s chief-of-staff, Denise Gonzales, has been the acting director since Calica resigned.</p><p><em>Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/tonyjarnold">@tonyjarnold</a>.</em></p><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Fri, 24 Jan 2014 16:41:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/arthur-bishop-named-new-head-illinois-dcfs-109572 Illinois lawmakers looking at high incidence of sexual abuse in youth prisons http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-lawmakers-looking-high-incidence-sexual-abuse-youth-prisons-108238 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/IYC Chicago.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois state legislators are considering reforms to the youth prison system to address sexual abuse that was brought to light in a recent federal study.&nbsp; The study by the bureau of justice statistics found that more than 15 percent of kids in custody reported being victims of sexual abuse. It&rsquo;s one of the highest rates in the nation and the report is giving advocates new ammunition to push changes they&rsquo;ve wanted for a long time.</p><p>They pushed those changes at a hearing Tuesday held by state legislators in Chicago. Lisa Jacobs with the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission told lawmakers there must be a better grievance process in the Department of Juvenile Justice so kids can lodge complaints without fear of retaliation. She says an inspector general should be appointed to investigate complaints and an ombudsman should be within the facilities taking kids&#39; complaints before they turn into major problems.</p><p>Jacobs says there needs to be more transparency all around. &ldquo;Watchdog access, family access is a big theme that we&rsquo;ve been talking about, an ombudsman, we need to know what happens in these facilities,&rdquo; said Jacobs.</p><p>Arthur Bishop, the director of the Department of Juvenile Justice, told lawmakers that he fully supports the creation of an ombudsman position.</p><p>Julie Biehl with the Children and Family Justice Center at Northwestern Law School told lawmakers that kids need to have attorneys during incarceration.&nbsp; She says when kids have parole hearings they often don&rsquo;t know what&rsquo;s going on and they don&rsquo;t represent themselves well. &nbsp;That causes longer stays, perhaps unnecessarily long. She says that over-incarceration costs the state a lot of money.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s important for youth to have an advocate, someone they can trust, someone [whose] sole job is to zealously represent their interests,&rdquo; said Biehl.</p><p>Biehl has been pushing this idea for several years but says the recent report on sexual abuse gives her proposal added urgency. She says attorneys for incarcerated kids could help prevent sexual abuse because kids would have an independent, confidential person to report the abuse to, hopefully stopping it early.</p></p> Tue, 30 Jul 2013 18:06:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-lawmakers-looking-high-incidence-sexual-abuse-youth-prisons-108238 Illinois ranks 5th in decreasing number of incarcerated youth http://www.wbez.org/illinois-ranks-5th-decreasing-number-incarcerated-youth-107764 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/chi_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois decreased its number of incarcerated youth by almost 40 percent between 2000 and 2010, according to a report released this week.</p><p>The study, by the National Juvenile Justice Network, found that Illinois had the fifth largest decrease of incarcerated youth in the country during that span.</p><p>The director of the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice, Arthur Bishop, said the report highlights a comprehensive effort by the state.</p><p>&ldquo;We work to prevent youth on the front end from coming in, we work diligently to prepare them to to return to their communities and then we work diligently to keep them in their communities,&rdquo; Bishop said.</p><p>Bishop said what was most essential was that all parts of the government who deal with youth crime worked together to keep kids out of jails and prisons.</p><p>The study&rsquo;s authors and Bishop both pointed to a program called Redeploy Illinois as a major driver of the decrease in the number of incarcerated youth.</p><p>Redeploy was created by the legislature in 2004 and provides financial incentives for 28 Illinois counties to find alternatives to incarceration.</p><p>The program&rsquo;s funding is set to double in the next state budget.</p><p>Elizabeth Clarke, the head of the Juvenile Justice Initiative, said that expansion is one reason she expects the youth prison population to continue to drop.</p><p>She said the national report is encouraging but said Illinois needs to do even more to keep kids out of its jails and prisons.</p><p>&ldquo;Incarceration for juveniles is just a failed public policy and we need to shift our dollars and investment to local community services,&rdquo; Clarke said.</p><p>Finding alternatives to incarceration is better for kids, communities and the state&rsquo;s budget, Clarke said.</p><p>Until now Redeploy Illinois cost the state about $2.5 million per year.</p><p>That&rsquo;s compared to the budget for the entire Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice, which is more than $120 million every year.</p><p>Clarke called the amount spent on Redeploy a &ldquo;ridiculously low amount of money.&rdquo;</p><p>The juvenile justice report, called The Comeback States, focused on the nine states that have made the greatest strides in cutting their number of incarcerated youth.</p><p>The state with the largest decrease was Connecticut, which cut its total in half.</p><p>According to the report, much of Illinois&rsquo; success in decreasing its youth prison population this past decade simply made up for a dramatic increase in the number of incarcerated youth in the years before.</p><p>Between 1985 and 2000 Illinois had the second largest surge in its number of incarcerated youth in the country.</p><p>The number of kids behind bars in Illinois doubled during that 15 year span.</p><p>Sarah Bryer, the report&rsquo;s co-author, said the reversal of that trend in Illinois is &ldquo;a great example&rdquo; of the importance of having a mix of policies dedicated to keeping youth out of prison.</p><p>&ldquo;Illinois was very explicit in trying to do better by kids and keeping them out of state-run facilities,&rdquo; Bryer said.</p><p>Bryer called incarceration a &ldquo;very expensive resource&rdquo; that states don&rsquo;t use wisely.</p><p>Besides the costs, Bryer said there is good reason to try and keep young people out of prison.</p><p>&ldquo;State facilities are largely ineffective. Kids go into state facilities, they are exposed to violence, they are separated from their families and their communities,&rdquo; Bryer said. &ldquo;Once they&rsquo;re incarcerated it&rsquo;s very hard for them to get back on track in the community.&rdquo;</p><p>Youth prison director Bishop said the state has cut the number of kids in its prison facilities by almost 60 percent since 2000.</p></p> Wed, 19 Jun 2013 09:16:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/illinois-ranks-5th-decreasing-number-incarcerated-youth-107764 Experts say Illinois youth prisons need independent ombudsman http://www.wbez.org/news/experts-say-illinois-youth-prisons-need-independent-ombudsman-107629 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/chi.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The chair of the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission says Gov. Pat Quinn must act quickly to protect kids in the state&rsquo;s youth prisons.</p><p>Retired Judge George Timberlake says incarcerated youth need to be able to complain safely to an independent government employee.</p><p>&ldquo;When we created the Department of Juvenile Justice, one of the fundamental ideas was an ombudsman, and that didn&rsquo;t happen. So that&rsquo;s something that can be almost immediately created,&rdquo; Timberlake said.</p><p>Timberlake called for the governor to act after a recent federal report found that Illinois was among the worst states in the nation when it comes to reports by young people of sexual victimization..</p><p>According to the report, based on surveys collected from inmates last year, about 15 percent of kids in Illinois youth prisons reported being sexually victimized while inside.</p><p>Nationally the average was about 10 percent.</p><p>In an emailed statement, a spokesman for Gov. Quinn wrote that &ldquo;a comprehensive top-to-bottom review of the agency and its procedures has been ordered.&rdquo;</p><p>That review will include an outside expert visiting every youth prison and interviewing incarcerated youth.</p><p>&ldquo;One of the key issues to be included in the comprehensive evaluation is the creation of an independent oversight body or ombudsman for investigations into allegations of abuse,&rdquo; according to the statement.</p><p>But Timberlake says the governor shouldn&rsquo;t wait for recommendations from outside experts, he should deploy an ombudsman now.</p><p>Timberlake and other juvenile justice advocates say an ombudsman would help fix a grievance process that right now forces kids in youth prisons to file complaints with the prison&rsquo;s leadership.</p><p>John Maki, head of the prison watchdog John Howard Association, says that essentially means incarcerated youth are forced to &ldquo;complain about the guards to the guards.&rdquo;</p><p>Department of Juvenile Justice Director Arthur Bishop called the report&rsquo;s findings serious and disturbing and said he is taking immediate action.</p><p>That includes creating a 24-hour hotline for youth to call with concerns, and a youth commission that will help advise him.</p><p>&ldquo;We want to make sure that our youth are safe and make sure that our youth have a voice, and that&rsquo;s very important that we find out where was the voice of the youth?&rdquo; Bishop said.</p><p>Jennifer Florent, a department&rsquo;s spokeswoman, wrote in an email that &ldquo;the creation of an ombudsman is one of the items that we will be discussing with the experts.&rdquo;</p><p>At the end of the day Monday, Florent said experts for the new panel DJJ is creating had not yet been confirmed,&nbsp; so she could not provide names to WBEZ.</p><p>Maki says prisons are ripe for the kind of sexual abuse identified in the report, and one way to prevent sexual victimization from happening is to allow an outside group or individual unfettered access to youth prisons and the kids inside them.</p><p><em>Patrick Smith is a WBEZ reporter.</em></p></p> Tue, 11 Jun 2013 07:56:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/experts-say-illinois-youth-prisons-need-independent-ombudsman-107629 Youth prison's suicide-watch cells still lack suicide-proof beds http://www.wbez.org/story/youth-prisons-suicide-watch-cells-still-lack-suicide-proof-beds-91805 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-September/2011-09-12/cityroom_20100316_rwildeboer_624983_Insi_large.png" alt="" /><p><p>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.</p><p>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.</p><p>Prison watchdog John Howard Association warned about this in July, calling it "absolutely unacceptable."</p><p>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."</p><p>Two months later, those beds are still not installed in those rooms used for suicide watch, according to department spokesman Kendall Marlowe.</p><p>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.</p></p> Mon, 12 Sep 2011 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/youth-prisons-suicide-watch-cells-still-lack-suicide-proof-beds-91805 Quinn's youth prisons proposal fades away http://www.wbez.org/story/quinns-youth-prisons-proposal-fades-away-89125 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-July/2011-07-14/inside_out_09.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A major change for Illinois' youth prisons is on hold. Gov. Pat Quinn last year pushed to merge the Department of Juvenile Justice into another agency, the Department of Children and Family Services. Quinn said it would lead to more treatment for incarcerated youth, though some lawmakers and a public employee union resisted the move. And, like many big ideas, the merger fell by the wayside. But there does appear to be change - however modest - coming to the state's youth prison system.</p><p><strong>Check out all the stories from our series <a href="http://insideandout.chicagopublicradio.org/"><em>Inside and Out: Young people and juvenile justice in Illinois</em></a></strong>.</p><p><strong>See a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/city-room-blog/2011-07-14/timeline-quinn-abandons-youth-prison-merger-89148">timeline tracking the Department of Juvenile Justic since its creation</a></strong>.</p><p>It was only five years ago that the Department of Juvenile Justice separated from the adult prison system and became its own agency. But it floundered. Facilities were crumbling, unclean and unsafe. Few activities were available for the roughly 1200 incarcerated kids; not all got a full day of school and next to no job training was offered. More than half the youth released ended up getting in trouble and being sent back.</p><p>So, last year, Quinn proposed merging the Department of Juvenile Justice with DCFS, a larger agency that runs the foster care system.</p><p>"Okay, I think that it was an idea. Somebody came up with it. And it was like, 'Oh, why don't we do this?'" state Rep. Karen Yarbrough, D-Maywood, mockingly recalled.</p><p>At the time of Quinn's proposal, Yarbrough chaired the committee that oversaw funding for youth prisons. She was not impressed.</p><p>"DCFS is a huge agency. And I just figured these kids would get lost," Yarbrough said. "We just had taken these kids out of a big agency - Department of Corrections - so to throw them back into another big agency was not my idea of the right thing to do."</p><p>Quinn, though, was determined. He issued an executive order, directing state agencies to work together and come up with a merger plan that lawmakers could consider. But the time line kept slipping - from weeks to months, to more months.</p><p>"We're going to make this transition over the next six months," Quinn told reporters in mid-July of last year. "Certainly by year's end [in 2010], they'll all be be put together."</p><p>"I'd say it's put on hold," Arthur Bishop said in an interview this week. Bishop was hand-picked by Quinn a year ago to run the juvenile justice department.</p><p>"I'm not saying it's something that you can never come back to, but right now this is our focus, and so we're not spending too much time right now talking about merger."</p><p>Bishop acknowledged the merger idea between the youth prison system and DCFS was going nowhere.</p><p>"As we went into the discussions around merger, we found that the collaborative relationships with other state agencies and other partners, allowed us to accomplish a number of the things that we've accomplished thus far, and so the focus is on the youth and the rehabilitation of the youth as opposed to what address DJJ sits in," Bishop said.</p><p>Specifically, the department is relying on DCFS to help train a new kind of employee, called an "aftercare specialist," basically a youth-focused parole officer.</p><p>Until recently, when kids were released, they were all monitored by parole officers employed by the adult Department of Corrections, and minor violations landed many back to prison.</p><p>But these "aftercare specialists" are supposed to meet the kids when they're first incarcerated, get to know their families. Essentially, help keep parolees out of trouble, save taxpayers from the cost of imprisoning them again and keep the communities they're returning to safer.</p><p>"It's not only to reduce recidivism," Bishop said. "But to ensure that a youth are involved in pro-social and positive things in the community, such as education, vocation and also in the appropriate services."</p><p>But the progress here is markedly slower than expected. Bishop originally hoped to have about 20 of these aftercare specialists working with kids in Cook County by now. He has just 5.</p><p>"That's the hiring process," he said. "It's not unusual. You have a target, and you identify individuals that are either coming from other state agencies or coming from other professions, and then sometimes when they find out what the job calls for, they make their own individual decisions."</p><p>Bishop notes that an additional 15 are scheduled to begin training in August, though - like the last round - the final number could be much lower.</p><p>And this aftercare program is only temporary: a two-year grant using federal stimulus dollars. Gov. Quinn's proposed budget this year included money to keep the program going, and begin to expand it statewide. But the legislature did not fund that. In fact, the juvenile justice department as a whole saw a $5-million cut from the last fiscal year.</p><p>Working with less, though, is the name of the game in state government these days. And Bishop's efforts in his first year are earning cautiously positive marks from advocates.</p><p>"All of this incredibly [is] well-intentioned and a great deal of work," said Elizabeth Clarke with the Juvenile Justice Initiative. "It is frustrating that given all of this, the conditions for the youth remain at the level that they are."</p><p>Concerns such as those are affirmed by a report last week by the John Howard Association, a prison watchdog group. It found problems at the St. Charles facility in recreational activities, maintenance and upkeep, safety and staff training - all things Bishop said he's working on.</p><p>But the most challenging questions facing the juvenile justice department are much broader. They involve local and labor union politics, and are beyond the new director's immediate reach. How many of the eight youth prisons around the state should be operating? How many staff should be working there? And how many kids should be incarcerated and for what offenses?</p><p>Those remaining and unsettled issues aside, Clarke contends that Gov. Quinn's abandoned proposal to merge the Department of Juvenile Justice with DCFS was not a waste of time.</p><p>"It certainly did propel a really necessary discussion about the overall focus of the agency," Clarke said. "Because juveniles are different. They need a treatment focus and they really do need more of a child welfare focus rather than an adult punishment, criminal focus."</p><p>Whether that focus translates to better conditions for incarcerated youth, fewer repeat criminals and safer communities, that's going to take a lot longer than a year to know for sure.</p></p> Thu, 14 Jul 2011 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/quinns-youth-prisons-proposal-fades-away-89125