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SWANSEY v. ELROD

January 10, 1975

JOSEPH SWANSEY, BY ANNIE SWANSEY, MOTHER AND NEXT FRIEND, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
RICHARD ELROD, SHERIFF OF COOK COUNTY, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: McLAREN, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

I.

Introduction

This is a class action civil rights case commenced under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 challenging the detention of persons between the ages of thirteen and seventeen in Cook County jail.*fn1 The plaintiffs allege that such incarceration constitutes cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment and violates the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The cause is now before the Court on plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction and defendants' motion to dismiss. For the reasons set forth below, defendants' motion will be denied; plaintiffs' motion will be granted. Insofar as required this opinion shall constitute the Court's findings of fact and conclusions of law. F.R.Civ.P. 52(a), 65(d).

II.

Factual Background

Plaintiffs are pretrial detainees who have been transferred from juvenile jurisdiction to adult criminal prosecution pursuant to Ill.Rev.Stat., Chap. 37, § 702-7. Until transferred, these children could not be prosecuted under the criminal laws. Under Illinois law, the transfer procedure is as follows: the State's Attorney moves to transfer to adult jurisdiction; a hearing is then held in front of a juvenile judge; the judge enters an order permitting prosecution under the adult criminal laws if he finds that proceeding under the Juvenile Court Act is not in the best interests of the minor or the public. In ruling on the transfer motion, the statute suggests that the juvenile judge consider these factors:

  "(1) whether there is sufficient evidence upon
  which a grand jury may be expected to return an
  indictment; (2) whether there is evidence that the
  alleged offense was committed in an aggressive and
  premeditated manner; (3) the age of the minor; (4)
  the previous history of the minor; (5) whether
  there are facilities particularly available to the
  Juvenile Court for the treatment and
  rehabilitation of the minor; and (6) whether the
  best interest of the minor and the security of the
  public may require that the minor continue in
  custody or under supervision for a period
  extending beyond his minority."

Ill.Rev.Stat., Chap. 37, § 702-7(3)(a). In operation, as the testimony of Maurice M. Dore, Assistant State's Attorney of Cook County in charge of the Juvenile Division, and Judge William S. White, presiding judge of the Juvenile Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County, shows, the children who are transferred are charged with committing the most serious felonies in a planned manner. Less than 100 out of some 20,000 delinquency matters are transferred to the adult criminal justice system in Cook County each year. Thus, under this transfer procedure many children who are charged with serious felonies remain under juvenile court jurisdiction if their alleged behavior is not considered severely "criminal" in a sociological sense. To date, neither the State's Attorney's Office nor the transferring judge has actively considered the location of post-transfer detention as a significant factor in the decision to transfer.

When transferred to the adult criminal justice system, a child is physically transferred from the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center (Audy Home) to the Cook County jail. The Cook County jail is a maximum security institution which houses some 2300 pre-trial detainees, sentenced misdemeanants, federal prisoners and state prisoners awaiting shipment to other state institutions. The jail was designed to contain 1300 prisoners, it now holds over 2500 prisoners. In the near future, however, a new building will open in the facility which will house 700 to 800 additional individuals.

Children under the age of seventeen are housed in two locations in the jail, Ward 1 and E-Block. Ward I is the hospital area within the jail. The vast majority of Ward 1 residents are adults. Some of these adults may have prior felony convictions. Jail officials maintain that members of the plaintiff class are placed in Ward 1 for their own protection against the general jail population. Other residents of Ward 1, however, may be under severe psychological stress. On occasion, other residents of Ward 1 have been placed in leather restraints so that they would not harm themselves or others. Moreover, Ward 1 is extremely overcrowded. Several plaintiffs have had to sleep on mattresses, on carts or tables, or on the floor. No separate eating area is provided in Ward 1.

E-Block is the area wherein most of the inmate population in the 17 to 20 year old age group is housed. This area is also overcrowded; inmates must sleep in extra bunks placed in the dayroom area. Each cell in this area is occupied by more than one inmate.

Members of the plaintiff class testified that various inmates of Ward conversed with them about methods of committing crimes. Jail officials conceded that there is no way, under present conditions, to prevent such conversations. It was also conceded that members of the plaintiff class received the same diet as the general prison population, a diet which is admittedly inadequate for growing adolescents. Additionally, members of the plaintiff class are only allowed the standard two visits per month from family members. Defendants also concede that plaintiffs receive no rehabilitative treatment in Cook County jail. Moreover, none of the jail guards receives any special training in juvenile care. This is despite the fact that jail officials recognize that juveniles present special problems for penal institutions. Jail officials also admit that they are unable to force certain members of the plaintiff class to attend the school in the jail as required by state law. Even if plaintiffs were to attend school, plaintiffs' expert presented uncontradicted testimony that the school was grossly inadequate. Additionally, no recreational program is provided for juveniles.

Plaintiffs presented uncontradicted expert testimony as to the effect of the Cook County jail experience on members of the plaintiff class. Plaintiffs' expert, Dr. Marvin J. Schwarz, stated that the jail experience would cause a "devastating, overwhelming, emotional trauma with potential consolidation of [these children] in the direction of criminal behavior." Plaintiffs' expert further testified that the 17 to 20 year old residents of E-Block and the older residents of Ward 1 would convey extremely destructive values to the plaintiff class. He further noted that there were crucial psychological distinctions between 13 to 16 year olds and 17 to 20 year olds who are being processed through the criminal justice system. From his personal knowledge of Cook County jail, plaintiffs' expert testified that the jail did not and could not recognize these distinctions. The expert also explained why plaintiffs would prefer to remain on Ward 1 with older adults instead of the 17 to 20 year olds housed in E-Block. The older adolescents' peer group ...


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