As Kane County moves toward locking in a contract to host DuPage County's juveniles in Kane's youth facility, a recent state report said Kane officials should immediately stop making youths wear only underwear in their rooms.
And they have.
The Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice conducted an inspection of the Kane County Juvenile Detention Center Oct. 3. Inspectors found juvenile detainees were forced to remove all their clothes except undergarments whenever they were returned to their rooms.
Detention and Audit Services Administrator Robert C. Catchings said stripping the juveniles of their clothes "tests the boundaries of corporal punishment" in a letter accompanying the report. "The Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice does not endorse this practice, and subsequently, recommend that this practice cease immediately."
Rick Anselme, superintendent of Kane's facility, said juveniles have been allowed to wear their full detention center uniforms while in their rooms since Nov. 7. He said having the youths wear only undergarments in their rooms was created to keep them from using their clothes to harm themselves.
At the time the policy was created, Anselme said, there had been instances of juveniles either threatening to commit suicide or actually harming themselves in their rooms.
After the state inspection, Anselme said staff members decided it was time to change the policy.
"We are constantly examining our policies in an effort to improve them," Anselme said. "This policy was purely a safety precaution."
The inspection report also cited Kane County for locking up a juvenile status offender last April in violation of the Illinois County Detention Standards. A status offender is one who committed a crime that is only a crime because the offender is a juvenile. Such crimes include alcohol consumption and truancy.
In the April case, the juvenile was charged with truancy but assigned to the juvenile justice center by a judge because of an additional contempt of court charge.
Anselme said since a judge ordered the confinement, juvenile justice center staff members had no choice but to house the juvenile.
The state inspection report also said Kane's facility needs a new fire inspection by the state fire marshal. There should be a better relationship between Kane's facility and the state's juvenile facility in St. Charles in case there is a need for an emergency evacuation at either facility.
Anselme said in his response that a new fire inspection has already occurred, and he'll continue reaching out to officials at the state juvenile facility. Previous attempts at establishing a relationship with staff members at the state facility have been unsuccessful, Anselme noted.
Members of the Kane County Board's Judicial and Public Safety Committee accepted the state inspection report Monday without questions or comment.