The lack of a Friday (4/13) Quick Hits was primarily the result of two stories coming at me so hot and heavy that confirming them took most of my day!
I’ve been aware of the first one for some time, but I promised two local elected officials I’d hold off until Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner had an opportunity to address the problem. But that was three long months ago, and since the situation is getting worse, it’s time to go forward.
Basically, the inmates at the Illinois Youth Center at Peck Road and Route 38 in St. Charles are running the show. Administrators at the highest level have been giving them carte blanche because the State has been trying to shut that decaying facility down for years, and any kind of “bad news” may cost them their jobs.
I still need to issue some FOIA’s and talk to a few more sources, but here’s a sample of what’s been going on at the IYC.
Back in 2014, a high-ranking Kane County public official was so concerned with reports from IYC staff that, despite having no jurisdiction over that facility, he reached out to former Superintendent Jeff Bargar with these concerns:
“My concern…is the safety of the guards and personnel. From incident reports on file, female guards have been confronted with verbal abuse, subjected to public exposure of male anatomy, and even more aggressive displays/threats of attempted sexual and other physical intimidation by residents during conduct of room checks.
The concerns are that the incidents of this behavior are increasing and that punishment for these serious occurrences is not sufficient to deter further serious infractions.”
Bargar was replaced by Brenda Welch who:
- Pressured staff to alter incident reports
- Played favorites with inmates so she can “get rid” of “troublesome” employees
- Allowed inmates to use her cell phone to make personal calls
- Was overheard telling another corrections facility superintendent “My staff is stupid and incompetent”
- Refused to punish inmates for all manner of violent acts
- Told a female staffer if she wanted an administrator position, she probably should stop having children.
- Cancelled the employee appreciation cookout because she said the inmates would be “offended” by having to watch the staff eat “good food.”
- One inmate destroyed 4 vehicles (3 state and 1 personal) with no repercussions.
- The buildings are being destroyed by inmates tearing out the walls to get at offices and staff.
- Two inmates have had their ears bitten off and one was left with permanent brain damage as a result of these regular attacks. There were no consequences.
- Attacks on staff have resulted in extensive time off for major surgeries and high worker’s compensation settlements.
- Female guards are constantly threatened with outright rape.
But my favorite IYC story is this one!
One female guard was assaulted by an inmate with a food tray and punched 4 to 5 times in the process and she defended herself and attempted to subdue the attacker.
But because she defended herself, she was put on “gate status,” Warden Welch’s favorite punishment for “recalcitrant” staff. She was subsequently removed from the facility and investigated by DCFS and the Illinois State Police as a form of retaliation. And the Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office, who was well aware of this incident, refused to press charges against the attacker.
All told, I have over 100 pages of staff complaints and incident reports that have gone utterly unheeded.
You see, they don’t punish the inmates because that means those incidents would have to be officially and accurately reported, and that would make this out-of-control facility look bad. But things are so bad, thirty IYC employees resigned in must thirty days between November and December of 2017. And the facility continues to bleed staff.
IYC guards have begged Kane County State’s Attorney Joe McMahon to do something about this mess, only turn be turned away. Of course, we’ve already covered the fact that McMahon also hates bad news and, since he and 20 separate prosecutors are spending most of their time on the Laquan McDonald case, they have no interest in these violent crimes in their own backyard.
Joe still thinks the McDonald prosecution is gonna land him a higher profile gig.
McMahon’s excuse is that it’s a State of Illinois problem, but the State’s Attorney’s in Henry and Saline counties have had no problem prosecuting inmates without Illinois Corrections administrators’ cooperation, so it can be done. Former Kane County State’s Attorney John Barsanti prosecuted IYC crimes all the time, including at one infamous rape.
But doing the right thing would inflate the number of Kane County felony cases and make you look bad, right Joe?
Brenda Welch has since “moved on,” but one of her former Cook County “protégés” has taken over the IYC and nothing has changed.
Those previously mentioned local elected officials made a real effort to resolve this horrific situation by bringing all the documentation I received directly to Bruce Rauner’s Chief of Staff, who proceeded to do virtually nothing about it.
Apparently, you have to be a billionaire, or a guard will have to die before the Governor finally addresses this absurd situation. He should count his lucky stars – at least those inmates don’t have Legionnaire’s Disease!
Thankfully, there is more than one way to skin a Freedom of Information Request denial cat! And one of ‘em is to get one of the formal sexual harassment complaints from the victim themselves.
One very brave soul has come forward to help me expose that Kane County State’s Attorney’s boy’s club for what it really is. I will present her complaint – verbatim – on Wednesday.
And yes! It’s every bit as bad as you think it is!