Illinois Considering Independent Monitor For Youth Prisons

Nov 14, 2013

The Illinois General Assembly is weighing the creation of a "juvenile ombudsman," an independent official who can keep an eye on the state's juvenile prisons.

The push for an ombudsman comes in the wake of a report that ranks Illinois' juvenile prisons among the worst in the country for sexual abuse.

A survey by the federal Justice Department found nationally, just under 10 percent of youth inmates reported experiencing sexual abuse. In Illinois, that number is above 15 percent.

The ombudsman, appointed by the governor, would be able to visit facilities whenever she wants, and speak confidentially to the young offenders.

Rep. Kelly Cassidy, a Democrat from Chicago, says this is one of the ways the state is responding.

"This is not the only response, and this alone will not solve the problems in our juvenile facilities," she says.

Cassidy says the department also opened an anonymous hotline for youths to report attacks. And it implemented what Cassidy calls "intensive" staff training.

The legislation sped through the House on a vote of 117-0. The Senate took the first step of approving the proposal in committee, but left town before the full chamber could vote.