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Juvy center wants security firm's help to reopen school
COOK COUNTY | Low staffing, Feb. fight have kept teens from classes

Thursday, April 24, 2008
Chicago Sun-Times
by ROSALIND ROSSI

Hundreds of teens at the Cook County juvenile jail on the Near West Side have been unable to go to school for two months because the jail doesn't have the manpower to take them there, a court-appointed administrator testified Wednesday.

Transitional Administrator Earl Dunlap asked a judge for emergency power to temporarily hire help from Wackenhut, a national security company, so the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center will have the manpower to escort students to the Nancy B. Jefferson School, located on the second floor of the juvenile jail complex.

The jail is operating with about 50 percent of its work force strength because of 175 vacancies, sick days and temporary absences, Dunlap said.

"That not only places young people at great risk, but staff at great risk,'' Dunlap told U.S. District Judge John Nordberg.

Dunlap said he doesn't want to hire "any warm body,'' but he's run into a string of bureaucratic red tape trying to fill full-time positions. Wackenhut would be a temporary "stopgap'' until full-time help can be hired, he said.

Nordberg ordered attorneys to try to reach a resolution today.

Dunlap's testimony came after angry teens told Chicago School Board members that kids at the jail awaiting trial have been denied an adequate education ever since a Feb. 18 fight involving up to 50 students prompted Dunlap to shut down the jail school.

Since then, teachers have come to student living quarters but kids "ain't got no books or computers,'' Damien Turner of Generation Y, a youth advocacy group, told board members.



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