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updated: 10/3/2013 7:55 AM

Girl escapes Warrenville youth center two times

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  • A girl escaped for the second time from the Illinois Youth Center in Warrenville last month.

       A girl escaped for the second time from the Illinois Youth Center in Warrenville last month.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer

 
 

A girl escaped for the second time last month from the Illinois Youth Center at Warrenville, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice said.

The latest escape happened Sept. 18, spokeswoman Jennifer Florent said. She said the department is "making changes in the fencing at this facility and, most important, we continue to care for this youth in every way possible."

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A local union leader said the girl was caught in Peoria and raised questions about staffing levels at the youth center.

Florent said state law prohibits her from saying why the girl is at Warrenville or whether she's still there.

"Escapes are beyond extremely rare at IYC Warrenville," she said. "There have not been other such occurrences in the past five years, according to staff and management who have served there during all of those years."

John Maki, director of the prison watchdog John Howard Association, agreed that youth escapes are rare and said he'd not heard of one before in his four-year tenure with the group.

"This is not a problem throughout the system," he said.

Janet Bradley, a local American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union leader, criticized a onetime policy change that she says lowered the number of staff members watching groups of girls when they are moved at night.

"You have one staff with eight or nine kids; really any one of them could run at any time they want to," Bradley said.

Warrenville is the state's only maximum-security youth center for girls, and Maki said the average daily population is around 40.

He said the understaffing problems that sometimes trouble other youth centers aren't typical in Warrenville.

"By and large, we think Warrenville is one of the best facilities they have," he said.

Earlier this year, the state made an emergency purchase of special beds and fixtures for Warrenville after an increase in suicide attempts at the end of last year.

The state spent $750,000 on the new furniture, which has rounded edges and no place to tie things to.

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