Report On Cuyahoga County Jail Could Come As Soon As Next Week

Cuyahoga County Corrections Center
Source: Cuyahoga County
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The Cuyahoga County Jail was back in the news this week when Administrative and Presiding Judge John Russo, representing the Common Pleas Court bench, accused county officials of indifference toward issues that may have contributed to the deaths of six inmates in three months.

"It is imperative that you and our County leaders respond in a timely manner to these concerns," Judge Russo wrote in a letter to County Executive Armond Budish.

Last month, Budish asked Pete Elliott, the U.S. Marshal for the Northern District of Ohio, to bring in a team of federal inspectors to examine operations at the jail. Elliott says the inspection team's report could be finished as early as next week.

"The Chief of Compliance and Inspection with the U.S. Marshal Service has a team around the country and they do this all the time," Elliott said. "They do it at facilities in Michigan and California and New Mexico and all over the country."

Elliott says an inspection team typically consist of 15 to 20 members, and its observations and recommendations will be thorough and detailed.

"They look at detainee health care, security and control, safety and sanitation, the food service," Elliott said. "They look at the detainee grievance program. The staff, the training, policies, procedures, professional certification."

Elliott adds that any issues with overcrowding, which reports is routine at the 1,760-prisoner capacity jail, also will be addressed in the report.

He says the U.S. Marshals have a vested interest in the Cuyahoga County Jail because it typically houses about 50 federal prisoners a week. He says the federal government pays the county about $90 to $100 a day to house each inmate.

"There's millions of dollars that we give Cuyahoga County, but we expect the best, no matter where we house our inmates," Elliott said.

Elliott says the inspectors have likely adjusted their investigations to account for the rise of mental health issues and opioid use among inmates, but that overall national standards remain the same. 

"An inmate is an inmate and they need to be treated equally all the way across the board, whether that is in Cuyahoga County or Detroit, Michigan, or Albuqueque, New Mexico," Elliott said.

Elliott says he's hopeful the county will act on the inspection team's recommendations.

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