Repairing Ohio jail's archaic locks requires ironworkers, county says

Maintaining the locks, some of which are believed to have been installed when the jail was constructed more than 40 years ago, requires a “Herculean effort”


By Courtney Astolfi
Advance Ohio Media, Cleveland

CLEVELAND, Ohio – The many electronic locks that secure the cells and halls of Cuyahoga County’s downtown jail are now so old that replacements are no longer made and repairs must be performed by specially trained ironworkers and electricians.

Southern Folger, the Texas-based company that took over for the original lock manufacturer, periodically sends a field representative to Cleveland to instruct the local tradesmen on how to best make repairs, often with the use of retrofitted parts.

Only by maintaining a close relationship with Southern Folger has the county been able to obtain the retrofitted parts, Public Works Deputy Director Matt Rymer told cleveland.com. Even so, the county must wait as long as 14 weeks to receive the parts.

Maintaining the locks, some of which are believed to have been installed when the jail was constructed more than 40 years ago, requires a “Herculean effort,” Public Works Director Mike Dever said.

The crowded and antiquated jail, part of the downtown Justice Center that also includes courtrooms and the county prosecutor’s office, will eventually be replaced or rehabbed. But the county has yet to even decide which option to pursue, or when the work will be done.

But County Executive Armond Budish has granted approval for jail officials to seek quotes on an overhaul of the jail’s security system. That overhaul would include installing new locks, an intercom system and security cameras.

Jail Administrator Rhonda Gibson said updated systems would greatly enhance jail security. Features would include automatic alerts when doors are not working properly, or when they are propped open by staff.

In the meantime, Gibson said jailers sometimes must resort to using keys to manually lock and unlock doors because of a malfunction of the electronic system that is supposed to remotely activate the locks.

Using keys, she said, is “not a good security practice.”

©2019 Advance Ohio Media, Cleveland

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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