Ohio jail updates policies, makes other changes to address 'inhumane' conditions

Many of the findings in the U.S. Marshals 52-page report center around a lack of jail policies related to inmate and staff safety

By Courtney Astolfi
Advance Ohio Media

CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Cuyahoga County jail administrators are updating policies in response to a report by the U.S. Marshals Service that cites ‘inhumane’ conditions in the jails and a failure to comply with federal guidelines.

The county Sheriff’s Department, which oversees the jails, announced this week that it will recommend buying policy and procedure materials from Lexipol, a company that provides state-specific policies that meet national standards and reflect best practices.

The materials are researched and written by public safety professionals and vetted by a public safety attorney, county spokeswoman Mary Louise Madigan said.

The recommendation to buy policies from Lexipol is one of several steps the county has taken since the Nov. 21 release of the marshals’ report.

Many of the findings in the 52-page report center around a lack of jail policies related to inmate and staff safety, and non-compliance with federal regulations governing those policies.

The county provided cleveland.com with a list of steps that jail administrators say are being taken. The steps include:

  • Inmates now have the opportunity to shower every day.
  • Some access to recreation is available on a daily basis, and a new recreation schedule is being designed and implemented. But interim Jail Director George Taylor said jail staffing still does not allow for inmates to receive the state-mandated five hours of recreation per week.
  • If inmates do not have access to hygiene supplies, such as toilet paper, they now notify a corrections officer. The marshals found that some inmates were regularly denied toilet paper, toothbrushes and other hygiene items. Taylor said Wednesday that he believes the jail has always had enough toilet paper, “and it was just a matter of the inmate having to ask for it.”
  • Managers and supervisors now receive more than 24 hours of training after their first year on the job. The marshals reported that only eight hours of training had been conducted previously, based on a review of the jail’s files. Taylor told cleveland.com that the marshals report was wrong about supervisory training that supervisors have received 24 hours of training for the past few years.

Other changes implemented over the past week include:

  • Meals that comply with religious dictates are available for inmates, and a dietician is reviewing the nutritional value of the meals.
  • Inmates in restrictive housing are provided the same food as those in general jail population.
  • Sandwiches that had not been properly stored are now refrigerated and wrapped.
  • The county bought two machines to vacuum-seal inmates’ personal property and clothing. One of the machines is being used. (The second will be used after the installation of a new electrical line.)
  • When transporting inmates, corrections officers must now verify the inmates’ identities via wristbands.
  • Food in storage areas is labeled.
  • Housing units are provided with a cleaning bucket every day.
  • A database is used to track inmate demographic information.
  • Kitchen workers handling food wear gloves and hair and beard coverings.
  • The temperature of food is recorded and tracked when it is delivered to the jail.
  • The dish-washing machine is now at the proper temperature, and the temperature is logged daily.
  • Haircuts are available to inmates each day, and court-ordered haircuts are provided the day before an inmate goes to court.

Also included in the list are several changes to jail policies, but Taylor said administrators have yet to put some of the policies into practice.

“Some of these problems cannot be solved overnight, but we’re trying to address them,” Taylor said. “And sometimes we have to take intermediate steps to partially address them.

New policies require staff to:

  • Explain the English-only handbook to inmates who do not speak English. Taylor said this policy has been developed, but it is not yet being done. Jail administrators still have to determine who will translate for non-English-speaking inmates.
  • Explain in writing if a logbook of incidents and activities for each area of the jail has been removed.
  • Maintain copies of all maintenance requests at the jail
  • Conduct security inspections of all areas and note those inspections in the logbook.

Another new policy requires supervisors, associate wardens and the warden to document when they make rounds of the jails or when they make weekly visits to housing units.

The warden, associate wardens and sergeants are now required to visit restricted housing units in accordance with federal guidelines.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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