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Union grievance results in order to remedy problem of assaults on corrections staff

Thursday, May 16, 2019

* 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.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

10 Comments
  1. - Anonymous - Thursday, May 16, 19 @ 2:53 pm:

    1 out 8 youths involved in assault is a staggeringly high number to this layperson. I wonder how this compares in other states?


  2. - Bothanspy - Thursday, May 16, 19 @ 2:53 pm:

    Last comment was me


  3. - Grandson of Man - Thursday, May 16, 19 @ 3:08 pm:

    “According to state records, youth-on-staff assaults within the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice increased from 34 in 2015 to 92 in 2018”

    While this was happening, a governor who made at least $333 million (not yet counting 2018 income) was trying to bust unions and ground the state budget down to a halt because of it. What a shameful thing. This governor made lots of his money off of the pensions of public servants who risk their lives and health to protect us. What a dark period in our history.


  4. - Downstate Illinois - Thursday, May 16, 19 @ 3:10 pm:

    By 2012 staff at IYC-Harrisburg had started reporting assaults to local police due to policy changes under Quinn.


  5. - Blue Dog Dem - Thursday, May 16, 19 @ 3:33 pm:

    Am I reading this correctly?260 youths at $120 million.


  6. - Bothanspy - Thursday, May 16, 19 @ 3:40 pm:

    ==Am I reading this correctly?260 youths at $120 million.==

    I think it’s the 260 plus the 580 in communities so approximately $142k per youth, which is extremely high. I accept that more funding is and should be spent on youth offenders especially for education and rehabilitation, but wow.


  7. - MrX - Thursday, May 16, 19 @ 5:08 pm:

    I was fortunate to have the opportunity to transfer out of IDJJ a few years ago. The youth pretty much run the facilities because they know there are no consequences for anything they do.

    IDJJ saying they prosecute youth is a joke. I know at St. Charles and Chicago the administrations actively worked against staff trying to press charges after being assaulted.


  8. - Chicagonk - Thursday, May 16, 19 @ 5:13 pm:

    Unfortunately there are little to no consequences for misbehavior. And as soon as they do anything to make these facilities safer for the people working in them, you can expect Chicago Reader to come out with a one-sided article about how tough the conditions are for juvenile justice offenders. It’s a lose-lose scenario.


  9. - realworld - Thursday, May 16, 19 @ 8:25 pm:

    Take a wire clothes hanger and whip their ass everyday when they act up. Trust me it works. Then let them know you love them.


  10. - MG85 - Thursday, May 16, 19 @ 9:51 pm:

    This is a tremendous victory for AFSCME members who were told repeatedly by the Rauner administration that of an inmate assaulted them, then it was due to their own failure. The last administration literally victim blamed hundreds of staff who were assaulted and did nothing to provide a safe work environment.

    It’s a long rod until safer working conditions prevail in our prisons, but this is a good start.


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