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Settlement in Suit Challenging Conditions in Illinois Juvenile Prisons

On September 12, 2012, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) helped youth incarcerated in secure Illinois Youth Centers operated by the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice (IDJJ) file a class-action federal lawsuit alleging that conditions in the IDJJ violated the youths' Fourteenth Amendment due process rights and their rights under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The suit was settled with a consent decree granting the youths relief and attorney fees.

Chicago Attorneys Adam Schwartz, Harvey Grossman, Benjamin S. Wolf and Ruth Z. Brown of the Roger Baldwin Foundation of ACLU, Inc. and raja C. Ea'on, Kevin M. Fee, Jr. and Joseph R. Dosch represented the five named plaintiff and approximately 1,000 youths incarcerated in the IDJJ. They filed a federal civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1966 and 28 U.S.C. 0 2201, et seq., challenging deficiencies in conditions, services and treatment throughout the IDJJ. Specifically, the suit alleged that the IDJJ failed to provide its charges with minimally adequate mental health, general education or special education services, failed to provide any post-secondary education in seven of the eight IDJJ facilities, improperly imposed excessive room confinement for disciplinary infractions that did not involve actual or threatened violence, imposed confinement in unsanitary rooms, imposed room confinement on youth with medical conditions, failed to protect its charges from assault by other youth or staff, used pepper spray excessively and continued to confine youth who have been granted parole in IDJJ facilities because appropriate community placement has not been secured and approved. The suit blamed many of these problems on inadequate resources and staffing.

The terms of the consent decree included the appointment of three expert witnesses jointly proposed by the parties. The experts are to investigate mental health services, general and special education services, room confinement, safety and commitment beyond release dates for lack of community ty placement. The experts were given 180 days to complete their report on tho e five areas after which the defendants had 60 days to file a draft remedial plan. Plaintiffs then had 30 days in which to propose revisions to the remedial plan with another 30 days for the resolution of disagreements.

The remedial plan must ensure the provision of adequate mental health services to all IDJJ youth including, intake screening and assessment individual and confident treatment by mental health professionals as well as aftercare and discharge planning. It must also ensure adequate general education services and special education services to all youth who require it, regardless of status or security classification. The plan must ensure "adequate constructive, supervised rehabilitative services" including physical education, recreational activities and work during non-school hours.

As a part of the remedial plan, the policies, staff training, supervision and physical conditions of room confinement will be revised with limitations on when and for how long room confinement may be imposed. It also must contain appropriate policies, staffing, staff training and supervision to ensure t e safety of youth from physical assaults by other youth or staff. This inclu es restrictions on when chemical agents may be deployed and requirements for reporting suspected staff use of force by medical personnel. The plan must also contain provisions to minimize continued confinement of paroled youth.

Once the plan is approved, the expert witnesses will become court monitors. Facilities can escape further monitoring once they have been in compliance for one year. Defendants are required to pay monitoring costs a well as plaintiffs' attorney fees and costs. See: K.J. v. Bishop, U.S.D.C.-D.I11.1 Case No. 1:1-cv-07289.

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Related legal case

K.J. v. Bishop