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'It Was Messed Up:' Teen In Foster Care Speaks Out About Being Put In Shackles By DCFS Workers

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Jawan Cross is not a prisoner – he's a teen in foster care – and yet, he was shackled by workers from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

Cross wants to show his face and tell his story about a problem that we first exposed. CBS 2's Chris Tye spoke exclusively with the young man as the DCFS had their day in court Thursday.

Cross said the DCFS first entered his world about 30 days ago. But that month has felt like a year – and one specific night felt like an eternity.

"Seven o'clock, the people come," he said.

The people in question are two DCFS contracted drivers in a large van, who pulled up in the back of a youth home on the South Side. The date was Oct. 1, and Cross was being moved.

"They put me in handcuffs. I was wondering why. I was asking, like, why do I got to get in handcuffs?" Cross said. "And they didn't say nothing. They just said they got to do it."

Handcuffs, though, were just the half of it. Cross said he was locked in the shackles with his wrists crossed in front of him, and then a chain going down to his feet – forcing him to walk in lock-step.

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)

"It was messed up," Cross said.

When youth home staff called DCFS headquarters to ask if such treatment was really necessary, headquarters said yes.

"They just said it's over their powers – that's all they told the lady," Cross said.

So Cross was locked down and moved to the suburbs.

"I kind of knew I wasn't getting locked up because these are regular people," Cross said. "They weren't even the police."

Until CBS 2 stepped in, DCFS made no comment on the shackling. In the days since our report, the organization has acknowledged it was "totally unacceptable" and "against policy."

That in turn led to a court hearing Thursday, and a rule change preventing the practice from ever happening again.

"One thing is that they have affirmatively put out there that they're not going to be using shackles or mechanical restraints," said Alpa Patel, Chief Deputy for the Cook County Public Guardian's Office.

But Cross has his doubts.

"They're just talking. They're just talking," he said.

A judge on Thursday did rule that the process of shackling must stop for good. So-called soft restraints – which are made of cloth – can only be used when a judge or a psychiatrist orders it, and two senior staffers from the DCFS green-light it.

Jawan, who just turned 18, said he can't wait for the DCFS to be out of his life for good.

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