Resource: Judicial Policymaking and Juvenile Detention Reform: A Case Study of Jimmy Doe et al. v. Cook County

By: Emily N. Winfield

October 1, 2008

[From the introduction:] In 1889, the nation's juvenile court system originated in Cook County with the passage of the Juvenile Court Act. Now this system, once heralded for its innovation, finds itself unable to account for its failure to provide even the most basic protection for juveniles detained at Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center (CCJTDC). The recent publicity of the conditions at CCJTDC highlights how the current anti-prisoner climate of detention policy has led to substandard conditions in juvenile detention centers in general, and CCJTDC in particular. However, with the ACLU's 1999 class action lawsuit, filed in federal court and challenging the conditions of confinement at CCJTDC, the courts may force the Cook County juvenile detention system to once again lead the way in juvenile detention.

This Note seeks to initiate a dialogue about the use of litigation as a tool for effecting meaningful change in the conditions of confinement in juvenile detention facilities. Broadly, this Note will first examine how the conditions at CCJTDC, and the subsequent lawsuit stemming from these conditions, relate to the adult prison and juvenile reform movements in the United States. Second, this note will discuss whether litigation is an appropriate or effective method of achieving reform in juvenile detention centers. Specifically, it begins with an introduction to the philosophy underlying the juvenile justice system, providing a brief history of the development and use of juvenile detention in the United States. Next, it explores the practice of judicial policy-making, highlighting its success in the reformation of American prisons. It proceeds with an overview of the Jimmy Doe v. Cook County litigation. Finally, it examines the relative success of the Doe litigation and subsequent judicial involvement. This Note concludes that judicial intervention in the reformation of juvenile detention facilities, while a proper and necessary function of the modern judiciary, cannot affect necessary long term systemic reform.

Resource Type(s):

Case Studies

Institution: University of Iowa

Citation: 12 J. Gender Race & Just. 225 (Fall 2008)

Related Cases:

Harrington v. Devito