Summit County Exec Ilene Shapiro Promises Jail Reforms

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Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro is promising to take "immediate" action to improve conditions at the Summit County jail. The reforms were recommended by a commission following the death of an inmate last year.

During her annual State of the County address, hosted by the Akron Press Club on Thursday, Shapiro pledged to add at least a dozen more deputies, push for a new security camera system to monitor inmates, and restore inmate services that had previously been cut, such as the jail's library and gymnasium. Shapiro, who spoke to a crowd at the John S. Knight Center in downtown Akron, suggested that the Summit County jail has been underfunded for too long.

“Perhaps no place has felt the county’s loss of revenue and limited resources over the last decade more than the Summit County jail,” Shapiro said. "Unfortunately, as revenues became increasingly strained, the county was left with no choice but to trim staffing and services at the jail."

She also said that four new staffers would be hired to focus on inmate services, and that she planned to introduce legislation to the County Council that would convert the smaller Glenwood jail into an "alternative sentencing center," which would allow the deputies currently working at the Glenwood facility to be transferred to the county jail.

The announcement comes after an advisory commission recommended those and other reforms following the death of 36-year-old Antony Jones last year. Jones, who was an inmate at the jail, suffered cardiac arrest after being restrained following an altercation with sheriff’s deputies. Jones had a history of mental illness. He died the next day. A lawsuit by his estate against the county sheriff, Steven Barry, is ongoing.

"The commission set forth a blueprint for change," Shapiro said, "and those of us in a position to implement change must pay close attention."

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