Heartland juvenile detention center called ‘a facility in crisis’ in 15-page inspection report

A Heartland Juvenile Detention center is a "A Facility in Crisis."
Published: Oct. 3, 2022 at 5:31 PM CDT
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BENTON, Ill. (KFVS) - A southern Illinois juvenile detention center is a “a facility in crisis.”

That’s the words used by the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice following an inspection in Franklin County.

The full, 15-page report can be found here.

During an August 2 inspection at the Franklin County Detention Center, the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice found what it calls “extremely low” staffing levels at the facility.

The report shows just eight full-time works and four part-time employees were working at the detention center at the time of the inspection.

Inspectors say they also found the facility to be non-compliant in several areas, including personal hygiene, food services and education.

“While the facility is still open and accepting juveniles, Jackson County’s policy as of now is to locate our juveniles in other places,” Joe Cervantez, Jackson County State’s Attorney, said.

Cervantez often sends juvenile offenders to Franklin County, but because of this inspection that has changed.

“So we have to go to places like Madison County, St Clair County, Vigo County in Indiana,” he explained.

According to the report, the acting superintendent of the Franklin County Detention Center told inspectors they’ve had a hard time hiring staff due to low starting wages and a requirement that employees have a bachelor’s degree.

Cervantez said it is disheartening to hear the facility is in crisis.

“How can we get them back on the right path if we’re forcing them to be institutionalized in places that we wouldn’t want to stay ourselves,” he said about the juvenile offenders. “We owe them a responsibility to get them the best facilities that we can get them while they’re going through this painful moment in their life. We just absolutely have that responsibility.”

“The recent report highlighting some very troubling and serious findings within the Franklin County Juvenile Detention Center is disappointing and unacceptable,” said Senator Dale Fowler (R-Harrisburg).

Fowler went on to add, “For years, this vital facility has provided incarcerated and troubled youth with important resources and tools that help them become productive and lawful members of society. It cannot be neglected. Unfortunately, the Franklin County Juvenile Detention Center is just the latest example of failings within our correctional facilities across the state. Illinois must start taking these issues seriously and providing these centers with the resources they need to succeed.”

This past spring session, Senator Fowler sponsored legislation, House Bill 5041, which would have assisted the Franklin County Juvenile Detention Center with recruitment, hiring and retention of correctional officers.