On September 12, 2012, youths confined in facilities operated by the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice (IDJJ) filed this class-action lawsuit
in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1988 and 28 U.S.C. § 2201 against the IDJJ. The plaintiffs, represented by counsel from the Roger Baldwin Foundation of the ACLU, asked the court for declaratory and injunctive relief, claiming that systemic IDJJ conditions, services, and treatment violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Specifically, the plaintiffs alleged that the IDJJ:
- Failed to provide youths with minimally adequate education and mental health;
- Failed to protect youths;
- Subjected youths to improper and excessive room confinement; and
- Held youths beyond their release dates after failing to secure appropriate community placement.
In October 2012, the District Court (Judge Matthew F. Kennelly) certified a plaintiff class
consisting of all youths who are, and/or in the future will be, confined by the IDJJ, and a sub-class consisting of all members who have special education needs.
In December 2012, the District Court approved a consent decree
and appointed three experts to investigate IDJJ conditions and services and report their findings and recommendations. In September 2013, the experts filed their reports
, which found inadequate education and mental health services, excessive solitary confinement, and other deficiencies.
Under the terms of the consent decree, the parties jointly submitted a proposed remedial plan on March 14, 2014, followed by a revised plan on April 4, 2014. The District Court approved the remedial plan
on April 7, 2014, obligating the IDJJ to implement the plan, and the ACLU and court-appointed experts to monitor and enforce the plan.
Beginning in July 2014, the parties and court-appointed monitors negotiated, and the District Court approved, numerous changes to IDJJ policy in such areas as special education, individualized mental health services, and protection of LGBT youth. Further, on April 24, 2015, the District Court approved a new confinement policy that:
- Completely prohibits punitive isolation;
- Narrowly limits non-punitive isolation for purposes of safety;
- Guarantees that youths placed in non-punitive isolation will continue to receive ordinary education and mental health services; and
- Mandates that youths confined for 24 hours or longer be allowed out of their rooms for at least 8 hours each day.
In addition, the District Court has awarded the plaintiffs $502,666 in attorneys' fees and costs to date.
As of June 5, 2015, the case is ongoing: the remedial plan and consent decree remain in effect for the duration of the monitoring term, which ends when a facility is found to be in compliance for one full year, and is found to remain in compliance after review by the experts one year later. However, either party may ask the court to extend the monitoring term. Jessica Kincaid - 03/28/2014
Robert Lake - 06/05/2015