The Cook County Juvenile Court was serving fewer than half its warrants. Corrections officials had illegally overcrowded the juvenile detention center. The heaviest caseloads in the nation choked the system's child-protection courtrooms.
Two new presiding judges in Cook County have reduced caseloads, created alternatives to jail to keep youths out of the detention center, and brought in younger, more ambitious judges. The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges has named Cook County a model juvenile court.
The Cook County Juvenile Court was long considered too big to control. Each year about 40,000 children -- 10 percent of the youngsters who interact with all U.S. juvenile courts -- walk through the doors of the massive courthouse on Chicago's West Side. Some are delinquents facing justice; others, neglected and abused children needing protection.