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In Re Washington



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. William S. White, Judge, presiding.


Rehearing denied January 28, 1977.

This is an appeal by the Illinois Department of Corrections (hereinafter Department) from an order of the circuit court of Cook County, Juvenile Division. We granted direct appeal. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 110A, par. 302(b).

Willie Washington, a juvenile, then age 13, was, on March 6, 1973, adjudicated to be a delinquent minor and a ward of the court. On June 7, 1973, he was committed to the Department, Juvenile Division, subject to the rules and laws "that may be in force from time to time governing said Department of Corrections," and a legal custodian of said minor was appointed. That order further provided that the minor was to be conveyed to the appropriate reception depot "or other place designated by the Department and shall hold said minor, care for, protect and discipline him until he attains the age of twenty one years, or until sooner discharged by order of court." The court retained jurisdiction of the cause for the purpose of making such further orders as the court shall deem to be in the best interests of the minor and the public.

The minor was assigned to the Department's Youth Center at St. Charles. In December 1974, attorneys for the minor, invoking section 5-8 of the Juvenile Court Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 37, par. 705-8), filed a "Motion for Report of Custodian" requesting the Department to report its doings on behalf of the minor and more specifically requesting that the Department be ordered to disclose the contents of its master record file to counsel; to make immediate arrangements for a "comprehensive clinical examination"; and that the court enter a judgment declaring that the Department had violated various statutory and constitutional rights of the minor; an order of protection restraining the Department from engaging in "offensive, unlawful and unconstitutional conduct against him"; a permanent injunction restraining the Department from violating the minor's statutory and constitutional rights; and an order removing the minor from the Department's custody and committing him to the custody of another guardian or his parents.

The Department filed a written report as contemplated by section 5-8 on January 28, 1975, and a hearing was conducted on February 10 and 11. The court heard the testimony of John Cheeks, assistant superintendent at St. Charles, and Betty Harris, the minor's counselor, which amplified the statements and exhibits contained in the report. Additional evidence and argument by counsel for the parties were heard by the court during the ensuing four months. Thereafter, on June 10, 1975, the circuit court found that disciplinary practices at the Illinois Youth Center at St. Charles which were applied to the minor were similarly applied to other minors, including wards of the court. In light of the evidence, the court entered orders and findings on behalf of the minor respondent and all other minor wards of the court confined at St. Charles and entered a declaratory judgment, finding that the Department and its employees "have failed to adhere to the minimum level of procedural due process required prior to the imposition of disciplinary isolation at Roosevelt Cottage at St. Charles." Specifically, the court found that minors who were subject to disciplinary isolation were not given any advance notice of the charges against them. While such documents known as "Roosevelt Reports" or "Adjustment Reports" were, at times, given to the minors, they did not contain information on the nature of the misconduct sufficient to enable the minors to respond at an inquiry into the validity of the charges. The disciplinary isolation in Roosevelt Security Cottage was found to be a significant "loss of liberty" requiring that a hearing be provided to the minors prior to its imposition. The court determined that most of the conduct which resulted in the present minor's isolation could not remotely justify relaxation of the prior hearing requirement on the basis of an immediate need to remove the minor from the general population because of a danger to the safety of other minors or the staff. It was also ascertained that minors were not given a hearing before a staff committee as mandated by the Department's Administrative Regulation No. 505. The failure to conduct a hearing precluded an opportunity for the minors to confront accusers and present evidence on their own behalf. Finally, the court found that the report dealing with a disciplinary violation never indicated a determination of the validity of the charges against a minor, the evidence relied upon, or the reason for isolation. Accordingly, the court entered the following declaratory relief:

"The minor Respondent, and all other wards of this Court committed to the custody of the IDOC, Juvenile Division and confined at the Illinois Youth Center at St. Charles, prior to the imposition of disciplinary isolation or solitary confinement have the right, protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, the Illinois Juvenile Court Act, sec. 701-2, the Unified Code of Corrections, sec. 1003-10-8 and Administrative Regulation 505 of the IDOC, Juvenile Division.

1. To receive written notice of charges, including a written statement of the misconduct alleged and the rules such conduct is alleged to violate, prior to imposition of disciplinary isolation.

2. To receive a meaningful written statement of the decision to impose disciplinary isolation by persons deciding the charges, including a detailed statement of evidence relied on and reasons for confining in disciplinary isolation.

3. To receive a meaningful opportunity to explain his actions or otherwise be heard, prior to the imposition of disciplinary isolation, at which time the minors may be allowed to call witnesses or present documentary evidence in their defense, unless the disciplinary report states specific circumstances showing that the calling of witnesses or presentation of documentary evidence is unduly hazardous to institutional safety or would impede rehabilitation or adequate care and treatment.

4. To receive a hearing, specified in (3) supra, before an impartial hearing board, prior to imposition of disciplinary isolation."

Pursuant to section 57.1(3) (Declaratory Judgments) of the Civil Practice Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 110, par. 57.1(3)), the court entered an order against the Department to show cause why a protective order and injunction should not issue, prohibiting the Department and its employees from applying practices and policies contrary to the declaration of rights as set forth by its order. The Department was directed to submit a plan for rectifying the statutory and constitutional infirmities stated in the declaratory judgment. This order was later clarified to specify that prehearing isolation was not prohibited under circumstances where the facts demonstrated a danger to the physical safety of minors or the staff or a danger to the security of the institution as long as the duration of prehearing isolation was minimized.

The Department thereafter submitted a proposed plan entitled "Roosevelt Confinement Procedures." This plan provided, inter alia, that disciplinary violations would be categorized as either "emergency" or "non-emergency" cases. In emergency cases, the allegedly offending minor could be summarily confined in a Roosevelt Cottage cell pending the provision of formal written notice. A hearing on the charges would be held by a three-member committee within three hours of the confinement. Emergency cases were defined as those in which (1) "there is a clear and present danger to the physical safety of students or staff," or (2) "the security of the [St. Charles Youth] Center would be clearly endangered" unless the minor or minors charged with misconduct were summarily confined. In non-emergency cases, the minor who is charged with a rule violation would be removed from the activity to which he had been assigned when the alleged misconduct occurred. He would be detained in "an interview room or the recreation area" pending a hearing. Written notice and a hearing would be provided within one hour of the alleged violation.

Counsel for the minor respondent offered objections to the propriety of the Department's plan, and agrument was heard on January 23, 1976. On March 2, 1976, the court entered a "Memorandum Opinion and Order" whereby it permanently enjoined, pursuant to section 1 of the Injunction Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 69, par. 1), the Department and its employees "from applying policies and practices at the Illinois Youth ...

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