* NBC 5…
According to state records, youth-on-staff assaults within the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice increased from 34 in 2015 to 92 in 2018. The assaults, which include punching, stabbing and spitting, are going up even as the number of locked-up teens goes down.
The state currently houses about 260 youth in its IDJJ facilities and there are 580 youth in communities. The state appropriated approximately $120 million to the IDJJ for fiscal year 2019.
“It’s an unsafe environment every day not just for staff and administration, but also for youth,” said former IDJJ teacher Maria Johnston-Becker.
Johnston-Becker said she was sexually assaulted by a youth in 2017 and six months later she was knocked unconscious by another youth in the hall outside of her classroom.
Juvenile Justice Staff employees told NBC 5 Investigates some youth routinely hurl urine, feces, and other bodily fluids toward them.
* AFSCME recently prevailed in a class action grievance about the same basic issue…
AFSCME members in the Department of Corrections and the Department of Juvenile Justice successfully used their union contract to enforce health and safety standards.
To address the growing incidence of assaults on employees in DOC and DJJ facilities, AFSCME Council 31 filed a class-action grievance against both departments that detailed the scope and extent of assaults on employees. The union argued that the employers’ responses have been inadequate according to both the union contract and state OSHA law.
On March 25, Arbitrator Terry Bethel issued a ruling granting the union’s grievance and affirming the gravity of the situation.
In his decision, Arbitrator Bethel indicated that both DOC and DJJ have failed in meeting the state’s responsibility to “provide a safe environment in its corrections facilities and youth centers.” He said his finding was based on “the evidence and testimony presented at the hearing, including the large number of assaults, the lack of thorough training, the failure to address certain conditions, and the testimony of the employees who were assaulted.”
“My decision,” he said, “is simply that the departments have not acted to the extent feasible to prevent injury to their security staffs.”
The arbitrator remanded the case to the parties to shape a remedy within the next 120 days that improves safety in DOC and DJJ facilities, and he retained jurisdiction over the case to ensure that a satisfactory plan of action is developed.