A new report released by the watchdog group says some youths felt “fear,” “frustration,” and “like dogs” when physical restraints were used at the Cook County juvenile detention center as the group criticized the detention center and An alternative high school called for the closure.

Equip for Equality, a nonprofit and federally appointed watchdog for people with disabilities in Illinois, released the 96-page report after spending 1,000 hours interviewing students, staff and administrators at the juvenile detention center and school from November 2021 through January of this year. released the report.

Equip for Equality’s managing attorney Rachel Shapiro told the Tribune on Friday that the most “eye-opening thing” she learned while talking to youths at the detention center was the use of physical restraints.

“The way it was described, two students said it made them feel like dogs, and just the frustration and fear that these students were expressing when we would interview them and how normal it seemed because they were saying I was matter of fact that they saw the restraint in which people were injured … That part of the report speaks to me the most because it’s so sad to imagine being treated this way,” Shapiro said.

Shapiro said other recommendations in the report are better oversight and coordination between the agencies that run detention centers and the ability to conduct proper audits. Detailed documentation of any incidents that occur at the detention center and school.

In the report, titled “Youth in Crisis: Stop Civil Rights Violations Against Vulnerable Students with Disabilities at the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center and Its Alternative School,” the detention center and Nancy B. Jefferson Alternative High School, both at 1100 S. Hamilton Ave., beyond the group’s final request for a complete shutdown.

They suggest moving youth into “smaller, community-based settings,” according to the report.

“Illinois needs to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline and redesign and reform the system of juvenile temporary detention centers,” Jenna Nadich, president and CEO of Equip for Equality, said in a statement.

“A major obstacle to modernization and reform of the state system for youth in custody is that there are too many local and state judicial bodies and executive agencies that play roles in overseeing the system,” Nadich said. “As a result, the accountability system is ineffective and determining who is responsible is confusing.”

Major report findings include routine violations of the civil rights of students with disabilities in prison and the unjustified and excessive use of physical restraint and segregation, often as punishment, in defiance of state law.

Olga Pribil, Vice President of Equip for Equality’s Special Education Rights Clinic, said, “By not following the law and/or their own policies and relying heavily on the use of physical restraints, the JTDC is causing these vulnerable youths even more trauma and frustration.” making.” in the statement. “I hope our leaders will take the necessary steps to replace that with a positive community-based model.”

Other findings included in the report include the special education system at the prison being “grossly inadequate” because 30% to 50% of youths enter as special education students, as well as problems occurring in 15 other local juvenile detention centers with local government calls the officers. So that these places can be closely monitored.

A Chicago Public Schools statement about the report said the district is “committed to providing high-quality instruction and educational experiences to all students in every school, including our alternative schools.”

The district said there are “concerns about the validity and reliability of the data” in the report, and that the district has provided feedback to the nonprofit on the findings and recommendations and will “continue to work with Equip for Equality to ensure so that students can get the services they need and that accurate information is shared with the public.

The alternative school is “extremely unique”, the district said, because approximately 80% of the student population is enrolled for less than 45 days, while some students are only in school for two days.

“Our top priority continues to be supporting students through every resource available, including high-quality instruction, social-emotional support and community partnerships,” CPS said in the statement.

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“Equip for Equality’s report includes many inaccurate statements that fail to adequately capture the great efforts our district is making to support students in our alternative schools, such as increasing the number of special education teachers who provide services. improving student credit attainment and graduation rates, and expanding community partnerships with Kennedy-King College, which allows students to earn college credits during high school.

Meanwhile, Cook County Board President Tony Preckwinkle said in a statement sent Friday night, “We have received the disturbing report and will conduct a thorough review over the coming days.”

“We commend Tools for Equality and the Special Education Rights Clinic for bringing attention to education issues in the juvenile temporary detention center,” Preckwinkle said. “While I do not have authority over the detention center’s practices, I share in the concerns raised by this report, the JTDC Advisory Board, and the 2022 report. blue ribbon committee Called by the Office of the Chief Justice. ,

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