Home Law Enforcement The Third World Country – Cuyahoga County Jail (Cleveland, Ohio)

The Third World Country – Cuyahoga County Jail (Cleveland, Ohio)

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Cuyahoga County Jail is the second largest jail in the state of Ohio and houses more than 26,000 inmates annually.  On average there is 2,200-2,300 inmates incarcerated within the jail at all times and more than 550 correction officers employed.  Inmates and corrections officers are both subjected to some of the worst conditions of any facility of it’s size within the United States.

Hundreds of inmates are forced to sleep on the bare floor with nothing more than a single mattress, no bunk & no boat.  These unfortunate inmates are flush against the walls, that in most cases, haven’t been thoroughly power washed in years.  These same inmates are also subjected to extreme exposure from debris carried in by airflow under the cell doors.

Anyone that is in the facility for a prolonged period of time risks early onset COPD and symptomatic asthma.  This is a result of the air ducts being compacted and not being cleaned in more than 15 years.  The only air quality control that is administered is the occasional filter change, which occurs in the jails basement.  An anonymous officer who has worked for the Cuyahoga County Jail for more than 20 years stated in his submission that he has “never seen them cleaned out one time, we all have to breathe in this same air and the temperatures get so hot, the sweat just pours down your back, it’s bad, really bad”.

Example of a clogged air duct
Example of a clogged air duct

In addition, inmates are faced with excessive lock downs (known as red-zone), decibel levels that violate Ohio Housing Guidelines and far exceed the 70 & 45 alternating decibel requirement.  This excess volume makes it unbearable for both inmates and staff.  The profound noise is due to a blatant code violation as the facility has drop ceilings that include no noise pads.  Prolonged excessive exposure to reverberating loud noise has shown to cause hypertension, ischemic heart disease, annoyance, sleep disturbance, stress and even cardiovascular adverse effects.

Submitted Inmate Grievances

Food:  On 8/31/2017 inmates found gray fuzz within apple sauce served in their meal trays. Inadequate breakfasts that do not meet the nutritional food pyramid guidelines on a daily basis.

Red Zone:  Inmates are locked down extensively due to improper scheduling and many supervisors unwillingness to assist subordinate correction officers in guard duty.

Cuyahoga County Cellblock
Cuyahoga County Cellblock

The majority of inmates fundamental rights are being violated daily.  Recreation is a major part, it’s extremely restricted and is not available to everyone in the pod, but only a select number can sign up for the recreation list.  This is in violation of the Ohio Housing Guidelines as well (see below).  One inmate stated “All we get is TV and cards but we need to be physically active, there’s no sun, bad air and not enough seats for everyone, it’s not a healthy environment at all”.

Medical:  A prime example of the medical department failing the inmates happened most recently when one unit had to give aid to an inmate.  This occurred because the medical department refused to treat the inmate, citing that they thought he was “faking”.

5120:1-8-04 Housing Violations

(I) (Important) Noise levels shall not exceed seventy decibels in daytime and forty-five decibels at night. Noise levels shall be documented using a sound level meter set to the A-scale (decibels)

(D) (Important) Temperature is mechanically raised or lowered to acceptable comfort levels.

(E) (Essential) The jail shall be inspected annually by local or state health authorities and a written report shall be provided. There shall be a written plan to correct jail-related deficiencies.

(B) (Important) Seating shall be provided in holding areas, holding cells, housing cells, dormitories, dayrooms and eating areas for each inmate.

Submitted Officer Grievances

On 8/12/2017:  During the day shift an officer reported the following:  11th floor Jail 2, 1 officer watching 4 pods with desk in hallway. 5th floor exhibited the same thing. 7c & 7c jail 1 which is psych units: 1 officer watching 2 pods with desk in the vestibule area. 6b & 6c jail 1 which is medical housing: 1 officer watching 2 pods with desk in hallway.

On 8/4/2017:  An officer submitted a multiple page report regarding several concerns to the state inspector. His report took several months for the inspector to finally receive it.  In the report the inspector found no errors or valid concerns whatsoever regarding the Cuyahoga County Jail.

On 8/31/2017:  An administrative order was sent out related to jail incompetency.  A jailers personal information was released to the prison population, which potentially placed that correction officers life at risk.

Medical:  Reports are that the medical coverage and prescription plans are inadequate when using the Metro plan.  One individual in particular is still paying deductibles from three clinic visits going on more than a year and a half.

Stress:  On August 9th, 2017 one officer witnessed a fellow officer doing something out of character as a result of stress.  Issues that many officers are going through that result in added stress:
  • Constantly double podded.
  • Lack of leadership.
  • Forced overtime weekly.
  • Doing the job of several officers (all by yourself).
  • Constant inmate kicking, banging and yelling.
  • Constant disrespect from supervisors.

The Administrative Memorandum

Ken Mills, Cuyahoga County Jail Administrator letter.
Ken Mills, Cuyahoga County Jail Administrator letter.

According to reports from officers within the Cuyahoga County Jail, an inspection took place 2 1/2 weeks ago.  The end result was a passing grade.  Officers were left dumbfounded with one officer questioning “how did we get a 90% passing grade on the critical aspects of this jail?  There’s just no way.” 

The county jail is running at full or above capacity every single day.  Officers often have the false sense that they are in complete control, but that is not entirely the case. The inmate population is becoming younger, more aggressive and the facility is becoming ever more dangerous.  The doors are being popped on a regular basis, which places the correction officers at risk.  This is done when an inmate wedges a chip bag or other object within the door so that it cannot effectively lock.  Putting officers in even more danger is the repeated understaffing.  In some cases, one officer can be responsible for up to 96 inmates.
In a nutshell the county jail is a highly volatile environment.  One that starts with the administrators and works it’s way on down the line.  Correction officers are being overworked and understaffed, this results in inmates being locked down extensively and increases their agitated state which poses a higher risk of physical violence to other inmates and staff.  Culminating the excessive lockdowns with excessive noise, lack of seating availability for everyone in the common area, poor food, no shower curtains and clogged air ducts in most parts of the jail spells a recipe for disaster.

Cuyahoga County Jail might be passing their annual inspections, but this is only because the facility is alerted as to the exact time and day.  Staff members were seen cleaning off mold the night before the most recent inspection from various walls within the jail.  Due to the consistent passing grade of 90% and 100% the facility therefore receives no updates on improvements for failing areas, which allows the issues to compound and keep both inmate and staff at risk.

Misappropriation of Funds

Recent security cameras that were installed within the facility were made possible by a federal grant that was intended to be used in conjunction with PREA (prison rape elimination act). These funds were misappropriated in this case.  PREA funds were not intended to be utilized for this purpose.

SCUMBAGGED Tip:  There are a multitude of other house code violations and issues that can be brought to light on this subject.  Much like the Harbor Lights story that broke in recent days, we will be featuring a two part story on the Cuyahoga County Jail.  Any other officers or inmates that have anything to add are urged to Submit an anonymous tip.  We are trying to make the facility a better place for everyone, inmates and correction officer and that all starts with awareness and exposure!

References:

http://codes.ohio.gov/oac/5120%3A1-8

http://sheriff.cuyahogacounty.us/en-us/corrections.aspx

http://sheriff.cuyahogacounty.us/en-US/Corrections-Leadership.aspx

5 COMMENTS

  1. I worked in the kitchen in 1998 and the food frozen most expired by about a year or more was donated when the inspectors arrive they hustle to clean and hide things they are radioed and told what floor the inspectors are going next

  2. I worked there for 30 yrs and retired. Myself and several officers can tell you the real deal in the Cuyahoga County corrections center, if you are willing to listen. The mental effects 10 yrs after retirement that I am going through is very real. If you are willing to listen you can contact me by E-mail

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