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DCFS Says It Cannot Guarantee No More Kids Will Be Shackled

CHICAGO (CBS) -- This week, the DCFS was called to task in front of state legislators for shackling foster kids.

CBS 2's Chris Tye reported Wednesday on the awkward exchange and the answers that did not satisfy legislators.

Judges, legislators, public guardians, and Illinois residents have told the DCFS to stop with the shackling. But the DCFS has not, and in a recording this week, the agency said it can't even promise that shackling won't happen again.

"They shackled me, put me in – like, locked my feet down and locked my hands down," Jawan Cross told Tye in the fall.

Jawan Cross
Jawan Cross, a teen in foster care, shows CBS 2's Chris Tye how he was placed in shackles by DCFS workers while being moved from the South Side to the suburbs. (Credit: CBS 2)

Cross and another state foster teen were both shackled in DCFS care in October.

In November, a judge imposed a rule change that "neither DCFS nor its contractors shall ever use handcuffs and/or shackles."

But last week, another 13-year-old in DCFS care was shackled, in violation of the new policy.

And now this week, Springfield legislators have been debating a law that bans shackling by the DCFS.

For the first time Wednesday, the DCFS spoke out on camera about shackles. This was the exchange between DCFS legislative liaison Alexa Koziol and a downstate legislator, Rep. Keith Sommer (R-Morton).

Morton: "Why are you still doing it?"

Koziol: "What I will say is that we will continue to work with all of the stakeholders that are behind me."

Sommer: "How many children in the next four weeks will be shackled?"

Koziol: "I don't…"

Sommer: "And that is OK with DCFS?"

Koziol: "No."

Sommer: "But it's your policy - you still do it?"

Koziol: "Current policy - if it's all right, I am going to bring legal up here, if that's all right."

A few minutes afterward, DCFS Legal Counsel Carol Melton came to the microphone.

Sommer: "So, you can guarantee the committee that there will be no more children shackled between now and this bill moving forward?"

Melton: "I don't know how you expect me to answer that question. I can tell you that our general counsel is working very closely with the ACLU."

On Wednesday, the American Civil Liberties Union said: "We are puzzled, and angry, to see this hedging in committee…. No child in the care of DCFS should be shackled. It is not hard. Just stop doing it."

Gov. J.B. Pritzker proposed plans to add $147 million to DCFS funding next year as he announced his Illinois state budget plan on Wednesday.

"One of the moral tests of government is how we treat our most vulnerable," Pritzker said.

A word he did not utter during the budget address? Shackling.

CBS 2 asked for a word from DCFS about why they cannot stop the shackling. They did not want to talk with us.

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