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Judge orders Franklin County youth detention center closed

The Franklin County Juvenile Detention Center in Benton, Illinois, was called a “facility in crisis” by state auditors last year.
Julia Rendleman
/
ProPublica
The Franklin County Juvenile Detention Center in Benton, Illinois, was called a “facility in crisis” by state auditors last year.

A judge has shut down a troubled juvenile detention center in southern Illinois that had been the subject of lawsuits and poor reviews by state auditors.

The Franklin County Juvenile Detention Center was featured in a November report by Capitol News Illinois and ProPublica that exposed the state’s lax enforcement of its own standards, despite audits that repeatedly found poor conditions at the facility.

Those standards were updated by the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice in 2021. The changes aimed to improve education and mental health services for detained youths, and to limit the use of restraints and seclusion. But in an inspection the following year, the I-D-J-J described the youth lockup in Benton as a “facility in crisis.” The Illinois Supreme Court had also found it out of compliance, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois filed suit against the facility’s operators in June.

In a statement, Judge Melissa Morgan said workforce shortages made it difficult to meet the new state standards. The 32-bed facility had housed youth awaiting court hearings in the bottom quarter of the state. It closed on December 31st. Youth from those counties ordered into custody while their cases are pending will likely be sent to facilities in Metro East Illinois or out of state.

Molly Parker was awarded the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award earlier this year for their months long investigations into Choate. Those were conducted while Parker was a member of the Lee Enterprises Midwest Public Service Journalism team. Email: mparker@capitolnewsillinois.com
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