Inspection finds persistent problems at Ohio jail

A state inspection of a troubled county jail in Cleveland found that problems with medical care, sanitation and inmate lockdowns persist


By Mark Gillispie
Associated Press

CLEVELAND — A state inspection of a troubled county jail in Cleveland in early July found that problems with medical care, sanitation and inmate lockdowns persist months after they were first cited in federal and state inspections, according to a memo obtained by The Associated Press.

Officials from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction's Bureau of Adult Detention conducted a site visit at the Cuyahoga County Corrections Center on July 3. The jail is not adequately evaluating and tracking inmate medical care and doesn't maintain a "continuity of care" for inmates returning from hospitals, said a memo written by Bureau of Adult Detention Administrator John Adams and dated July 18.

This Feb. 20, 2019 file photo, shows the exterior of the Cuyahoga County Corrections Center in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File)
This Feb. 20, 2019 file photo, shows the exterior of the Cuyahoga County Corrections Center in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File)

The memo also said that while sanitation has improved, areas of the jail remain "unclean," including food preparation and tray cleaning areas. Prolonged lockdowns of inmates in their cells continue when large numbers of corrections don't report for work, the memo said.

"The memo shows we are working hard to make improvements in the county jail. We are committed to continuing the progress," Cuyahoga County spokeswoman Mary Louise Madigan said.

The U.S. Marshals Service in November issued a report that said the grossly overcrowded jail was plagued by "inhumane" conditions, abusive behavior by corrections officers and unsanitary conditions, and concluded the lockup was unsafe for both inmates and staff. Problems with medical and mental health care for inmates also were cited in the report.

The state, after essentially giving the jail a clean bill of health in 2017, inspected the jail shortly after the release of the U.S. Marshals Service report and said the jail was noncompliant in 84 of the state's 135 standards.

Gov. Mike DeWine said June 7 that he had ordered improvements in the state's jail inspection system and an increase in the inspection staff from six to 15 employees "to enable them to conduct inspections on all minimum standards each year" at Ohio's 300 local jails. The state previously examined essential standards annually and minimum standards once every two years.

The Republican governor said he had ordered monthly compliance monitoring of the Cuyahoga County jail and said "additional legal action" could be taken if the jail fails "to demonstrate significant improvements." An inspection in early June found the jail noncompliant on 66 standards and on 63 standards in July.

DeWine asked for a review of the jail inspection system in March while noting that eight inmates had died at the Cuyahoga County jail last year.

Adams' July memo cited three dates in June when inmates were locked in their cells because of "call offs" by corrections officers. On June 15, for example, 36 corrections officers called off work for the first shift, and another 26 called off on second shift.

Adams wrote that the jail needs to work "collaboratively" with MetroHealth Medical Center, the public health system the county pays to provide medical care at the jail.

"These changes are necessary to ensure compliance with the Standards for Jails in Ohio," Adams wrote.

The memo noted that the jail's ability to enforce its contract with MetroHealth for "non-performance" is limited because officials must go through County Executive Armond Budish, which the memo said "adds additional hurdles to ensure that MetroHealth is delivering promised services."

Budish and his administration are the focus of a state and federal corruption probe while the county's former director of corrections, a former warden and more than a half-dozen corrections officers face criminal charges. The jail is also the subject of a federal civil rights investigation over its treatment of inmates.

Associated Press
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