4 guards hurt in fight at Joliet youth prison
By Cindy Wojdyla Cain firstname.lastname@example.org January 11, 2013 12:58PM
Updated: February 14, 2013 6:43AM
JOLIET — Four security guards at Illinois Youth Center-Joliet were injured Thursday during a fight with two teens, the facility’s union representative said Friday.
“It was a Code 1 assault on staff,” said Sharon Konopka, president of the American Federal of State County and Municipal Employees Local 1753, which covers 215 workers at IYC-Joliet.
Two youths attacked a 52-year-old staffer in the morning, she said.
“They hit him in the front of the face, the side of the head and the back of his head with their fists,” she added. “Keep in mind, these are very large 18- to 19-year-old youths.”
One youth jumped on the guard’s back before the code alert was called and other staff members arrived to help, Konopka said. The fight continued and three more guards were injured.
All four were taken to Presence Saint Joseph Medical Center’s emergency room where they were treated and released. One guard suffered a knee injury, others had sprains and swelling, according to Konopka.
IYC-Joliet is the state’s only maximum-security facility for youths ages 17 to 20.5. The facility, which is at 2848 McDonough St., is scheduled to be closed on Feb. 22 in a controversial move by Gov. Quinn to reduce state spending. A yearlong fight to save the facility ended last month when the Legislature gave up its fight to preserve funding for the Joliet-based juvenile facility and others slated to close around the state.
Konopka said Thursday’s fight illustrates how dangerous youths incarcerated in Joliet are.
“We have larger youths, they’re violent, they’re dangerous and they’re predatory,” she said.
They also are not likely to be punished for attacking the guards, she added. The Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice has prohibited the use of extended confinement for infractions in its facilities, Konopka said.
Criminal charges also are rare, she said. Many of the kids at the facility are due to be sent to prison when they turn 21 and face 25 to 90 years of incarceration.
“They don’t have a whole lot to lose,” she said
A spokesman for the juvenile justice department could not be reached to comment on the fight.
In previous statements, department officials have said once IYC-Joliet closes, its youths will be transferred to other juvenile facilities in St. Charles, Kewanee and Harrisburg.
Konopka said she doesn’t know what triggered Thursday’s fight, but she did say that tensions are high at the facility now that everyone knows it’s slated for closure. A lot of the youths at the center are from the Chicago area and the prospect of moving to Kewanee or Harrisburg is troubling to them, she said. That would limit visits by relatives.
“You’re taking away a family bond,” she said.