DJJ responds to ACLU lawsuit - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

DJJ responds to ACLU lawsuit

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HARRISBURG --  A lawsuit between the American Civil Liberties Union and Illinois claims staff at Illinois Youth Center in Harrisburg maliciously prosecuted its charges.

The ACLU asked the courts to order the Department of Juvenile Justice to form a plan to stop the practice and halt transfers to IYC Harrisburg.

The original complaint claimed staff at IYC Harrisburg improperly and unfairly sought charges independently against youth for what the ACLU called trivial matters, even when the DJJ didn't feel they were necessary. 

The ACLU asked the court to require the DJJ to come up with a plan to stop staff seeking charges on their own and requested a halt of transfers to IYC Harrisburg until the two sides could agree on a plan.

But a new DJJ response to the complaint said many of the ACLU's issues fall outside of the department's control. It said that of the more than 45 charges identified by the ACLU, the DJJ only recommended three of them, and it can't stop its employees from seeking charges on their own. 

The new filing said of the many potential solutions to the problem, the ACLU chose one that cannot succeed.

ACLU lawyers disagree.

"This needs a comprehensive solution not just for the youth, but also for the staff," ACLU lawyer Camille Bennett said, "just some sort of comprehensive plan to try to address the staff discontent that's driving this. There are clearly things they can do."

In an interview two weeks ago, the president of the Union that represents IYC Harrisburg said the staff initially stopped seeking charges at the request of the DJJ earlier this year, but started back up due to a lack of institutional punishments and fear for their own safety.

"If you think spitting on staff is okay, try spitting on a state trooper next time he gives you a ticket," President John Simpson said. "Its an assault. If you think that striking a staff, breaking a staff's nose is okay, it's not."

The DJJ's filing made it clear the department doesn't agree with staff seeking charges on their own but said there's nothing it can do and nothing for the court to decide.

Argument and ruling in the case will take place Monday in United States District Court in Chicago.

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