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Former corrections official to oversee juvenile center reforms

Thursday, June 08, 2006
Special to suffredin.org
by Associated Press

CHICAGO -- A federal judge has appointed a former state corrections official to oversee changes at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center.

U.S. District Judge John Nordberg appointed Brenda Welch to the position Wednesday.

Welch is a former assistant warden at the Joliet Correctional Center and last worked at the DuPage County Children's Center.

Her appointment is part of an agreement between Cook County and the American Civil Liberties Union to institute reforms at the juvenile center. She will work with a panel of four nationally recognized experts in juvenile justice.

Under the deal, the panel has 60 days to recommend improvements, and Welch will be in charge of making sure that they're implemented.

Nordberg applauded the two sides for agreeing to select Welch.

"I've had an opportunity to review her credentials and I'd say they're excellent," he said.

The ACLU has alleged that children, and sometimes staff members, abuse residents at the center. In 1999, the organization filed a federal lawsuit against the facility on behalf of residents.

That suit was settled in 2002 when the county agreed to improve conditions, but the ACLU asked a federal judge in November to appoint an independent manager to oversee reforms because the group was again concerned about its residents.

The current deal gives the county eight months to achieve "substantial compliance" with the 2002 settlement.

In April, the FBI announced that agents are investigating whether there were civil rights violations at the center.

And state Attorney General Lisa Madigan also is investigating the facility over accusations that there were fraudulent payroll documents, grant applications and requests for payment.



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