A damning review of Cook County juvenile jail, Biden’s student debt cancellation plan and more in your Chicago news roundup

Today’s update is a 5-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.

SHARE A damning review of Cook County juvenile jail, Biden’s student debt cancellation plan and more in your Chicago news roundup
The Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center in Chicago

The Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center in Chicago.

Sun-Times file photo

Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a 5-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

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Afternoon Edition
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Top story

Cook County juvenile jail is locking kids, teens in their cells for most of the day, scathing review finds

In a scathing report, a group of juvenile justice experts says the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center — a five-story fortress on the West Side with courtrooms and a public school that houses as many as 175 youths — should be permanently shut down and replaced with smaller, community-based facilities focused on rehabilitation.

The report comes from a committee convened last year by Chief Cook County Judge Timothy Evans, whose office oversees the detention center, which is the country’s largest stand-alone juvenile jail. Evans asked the committee to evaluate procedures at the detention center, especially regarding how long youths are confined to their cells.

The committee found that the detention center, known as the JTDC, is “isolating and deprivational,” rather than rehabilitative. Most kids and teenagers there — the vast majority of those held there are Black — spend at least 13 hours a day locked in their small cells — including one hour when the facility is locked down during shift changes and from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. every day for what jail officials call “sleeping hours.”

The committee noted that no healthy teenager sleeps during that stretch of time and said the jail’s staff often disciplines youths by confining them to their cells for several more hours on top of that.

“Semantics do not diminish the harsh reality that JTDC youth are locked in their cells for most of the day, every day,” the committee wrote. “No parent would be allowed to do this to their child.”

Evans received the committee’s report in May, but his office didn’t release it until yesterday — a week after Injustice Watch obtained a copy and asked the chief judge’s office about it.

A spokeswoman for Evans said the chief judge is forming another committee to implement the recommendations but did not provide a full list of its members or respond to questions about when the work will begin or which recommendations the judge plans to follow.

Injustice Watch’s Carlos Ballesteros and Jonah Newman have more on the review here.

More news you need

  1. An apparent traffic dispute during rush hour in downtown Chicago turned deadly yesterday evening when two drivers got out of their cars and one stabbed the other in the neck. The wounded driver refused help from witnesses and drove five blocks to North Michigan Avenue, where he stopped near a patrol car and an ambulance was called, according to police.
  2. Federal authorities have arrested and charged two brothers from the Chicago area — Daniel and Joseph Leyden — with assaulting officers and helping remove barriers during the Jan. 6, 2021, breach of the U.S. Capitol. They are among at least 30 other Illinoisans who have been charged in the breach.
  3. The trial of R. Kelly continued today, with Kelly’s lawyers questioning a man he allegedly hired to round up child pornography tapes that featured Kelly with underage girls ahead of his 2008 trial. Andy Grimm and Jon Seidel have the full details on today’s proceedings here.
  4. President Joe Biden today announced a plan to wipe out $20,000 in federal student debt for Pell Grant recipients and eliminate $10,000 in federal student loan debt for other borrowers. Our Lynn Sweet breaks down eight things you should know about the new plan.
  5. City Council members are facing a Sept. 2 deadline to decide whether to accept a 9.62% pay raise that will boost their annual salaries to $142,772. The raise amounts to a political dilemma that could impact their reelection chances, our Fran Spielman explains in her latest.
  6. Some CPS special education students with disabilities are enduring nearly two-hour-long bus rides, as transportation problems continue into this new school year. Our Nader Issa has more with some of the students and families affected here.
  7. Over the last several years, Alejandra Frausto has pleaded with city officials to address high levels of lead in paint covering viaducts stretching along Central Park Avenue in her Southwest Side neighborhood. But yesterday, Frausto found city workers power washing the viaducts, sending paint chips flying into nearby grass, yards and sidewalk where kids play— and she can’t get answers, our Brett Chase reports.
  8. Kroger Co., which owns Mariano’s stores, opened a new warehouse in Maywood yesterday to make home grocery deliveries to people who live in the Chicago area. You can get groceries directly from the Kroger warehouse when you order from the Mariano’s website, instead of using third-party delivery options like Instacart.
  9. An invasive spotted lanternfly that swarmed across the East Coast was recently seen in Indiana — and it could be making its way to Chicago next. Because spotted lanternflies destroy hops, grapes and all kinds of other fruit, the USDA has instructed everyone to kill the insect when they see one.
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A bright one

Birdwatching around Chicago: Some unconventional tips

In a built-up city like Chicago, you could argue the transition between seasons brings only so much change to the urban scenery. But what does change drastically from summer to winter are the birds that make the city their home.

Migration patterns bring all kinds of birds to Chicago for short and long periods. In the spring, you’ll find indigo buntings and all sorts of warblers. August is an excellent time to see shore birds before they head south.

Those birds bring birdwatchers — birders — often to familiar birding spots, such as Illinois Beach State Park in Zion and the North Park Village Nature Center. The Chicago Audubon Society keeps a list of favorite places.

Our WBEZ colleagues Andrew Meriwether and Maggie Sivit have put together a few unexpected birding spots — and approaches.


A black-crowned night heron in River Park (left) and avid birdwatcher Jorge Garcia taking bird photos (right).

Jorge Garcia, Maggie Sivit / WBEZ

  • Don’t underestimate the view from your window

When Uptown resident and birder Mia Park moved to her current apartment building, the rules were strict: nothing hanging from the windows, which meant no bird feeders. But Park discovered a workaround that would bring birds right to her window.

“I keep this plant by the window so that the birds think there is nature on the inside,” she says. “I take a scoop of bird seed — I actually like to pour [it] as close to … where the window is because they hop up there, and I can see them better.”

  • Try birding at night

Edward Warden is president of the Chicago Ornithological Society and co-founder of the Chicago Nighthawk Project, which works with volunteers to count nighthawks around Chicago and to figure out ways to conserve their numbers.

When Warden and other volunteers go looking for nighthawks on summer evenings, they’re often going to places you might not expect, like Little League fields.

  • Check out this Costco retention pond

According to Bob Fisher, communications coordinator for the Bird Conservation Network, the retention pond next to the Costco in Orland Park is a great space for birding.

“You wouldn’t normally say, ‘Let’s go to the Costco to go birding,’ but it works for certain types of birds, particularly because of these retention ponds,” Fisher says. “You’ve got a habitat that they can use.”

You can find more birding tips from our WBEZ friends here.

From the press box

Your daily question ☕

How do you feel about President Biden’s new student debt cancellation plan?

Send us an email at newsletters@suntimes.com and we might feature your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Yesterday, we asked you: If you could reconnect with a CPS teacher who positively impacted you, what would you say to them?

Here’s what some of you said…

“I’ve had two very impactful teachers in my youth and if I had the chance, I would say, thank you for your efforts and the lessons you provided. They made learning an engaging experience and I would not have achieved academically without them the way I did.” — Chris Finkley

“I attended Benito Juarez Community Academy high school, even though he wasn’t technically my teacher, he always encouraged me to try my hardest and accomplish my goals. I would like to give a shout-out to Steve Vidal for encouraging his students past and present to achieve their greatest successes!” — Maurice Snell

“Mark Sheridan teachers not only positively impacted my kids but our entire family! I am grateful for the 13 years with CPS! Huge shout out to the school principal too, Mr. O’Connell. He is the best!” — Erika Domalewski Vazzana

“Dear Chefmo Morris and Georgia Johnson of Tilden — thank you for nurturing my culinary gift. For not only showing me the wonderful opportunities life had for me, but supporting and believing in me along the way. I appreciate you so much. Your Impact on my life will echo for generations.” — Iysha Mitchell

“John Catomer — he impacted all his students. When I use to get bullied, he told me they see the light in you and that’s why they trying to bring you down! Don’t let them! He showed me how to be a leader and helped me through times when I wished I would die.” — Sonia Aguilar

“Ms. Valentino and Mr. Esposito — thank you for taking the time to help me along the way and for being kind and for noticing me.” — Ella Bella Mtnz

“I would say thank you for believing in the potential I had and encouraging me to believe that anything was possible for myself.” — Chris Vaughn

“I am a proud product of CPS and grew up in Woodlawn. I thank all my teachers from kindergarten through high school who encouraged me, motivated me, inspired me, and convinced me that I could do whatever I desired with hard work and determination.” — Yvonne Coleman

“Thank you. Because of you, I am.” — Catherine Franshonn

Thanks for reading the Chicago Afternoon Edition. Got a story you think we missed? Email us here.

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