County officials ask U.S. Marshals to inspect Ohio jail

U.S. Marshal Pete Elliott will form a team of investigators to probe issues at the Cuyahoga County Jail at the request of county officials after six jail inmates died in less than three months


By Courtney Astolfi & Adam Ferrise
Advance Ohio Media

CLEVELAND — U.S. Marshal Pete Elliott will form a team of investigators to probe issues at the Cuyahoga County Jail at the request of county officials after six jail inmates died in less than three months.

Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish said Tuesday in a meeting with cleveland.com that county officials asked U.S. Marshal Pete Elliott to conduct an "independent assessment" of the jail.

The marshal's assessment is separate from an FBI inquiry into possible civil rights violations at the jail. Elliott said the chief of the U.S. Marshals' Detention Standards and Compliance branch, based in Washington D.C., will head up the assessment. Elliott said the team will use marshals based in Cleveland, Toledo and Akron. 

"We will do a full compliance inspection and facility review," Elliott said. "We'll compare that to other institutions across the country and we'll recommend corrective action, whatever that may be."

Elliott said that the marshals have a stake in the jail because it houses defendants in federal court cases.

Of the six inmates who have died in the jail, two hanged themselves, and two had drugs in their system. The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner has yet to determine the cause of two other deaths, including one at the county-run Euclid jail.

County officials on Tuesday said that the most recent inmate who died, 44-year-old Allan Gomez, was found hanged.

The jail is regularly over capacity by hundreds of inmates and inmates are routinely locked down for hours a day.

Budish said the jail administration is also increasing programs that aim to help inmates with drug addictions and those with mental illnesses.

In addition to the marshals' assessment, Budish said the county is "aggressively" hiring more corrections officers and recruiting more nurses to combat understaffing in both areas.

Cuyahoga County Councilman Michael Gallagher, chair of the Public Safety Committee, supports Budish's decision to hire more staff and bring in outside investigators, but said council members will pursue their own review of the jail.

"These are issues that are not going to go away and are seemingly systemic. We have to immediately address them," Gallagher said.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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