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Cuyahoga County Jail Exposed: Leaked Letter To Executive Staff Discloses Life Threatening Issues At Jail (Cleveland, OH)

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On 12/18/2018 Scumbagged.com received a leaked letter from an anonymous source that was addressed to all executive staff members of the Cuyahoga County Jail.  The letter, which was sent to Director Armond Budish, Cuyahoga County Council, Jail Wardens, Interim Regional Director George Taylor and Head of Human Resources Ed Moralise outlined extremely grave & serious issues that are directly causing inmate deaths and assaults on staff as well as a host of other things still not being addressed at the jail.  The letter was drafted by Frank L. Hocker, who has worked for the C.C.J for more than 18 years and is currently a Union Director & Corrections Officer at the jail.

This isn’t the first time that internal documents, grievances & letters have been leaked to Scumbagged.com.  Ken Mills, the Regional Director of Corrections resigned from his post after he was exposed for cronyism, contract-steering & abusing his position of authority.  The Warden, Eric Ivey, was exposed for an alleged assault on an inmate in a sworn affidavit followed by the county’s Sheriff, Clifford Pinkney, who was exposed for alleged racism, favoritism and handing out excessive overtime to friends.

The Cuyahoga County Jail has been referred to as the Hell On Earth and even labeled as a Third World Country.  Most recently, the U.S. Marshall’s released a chilling report that outlined serious constitutional violations as well as downright negligence on the behalf of jail administrators.  The county jail has been ordered to undergo severe and immediate change & a real threat of a U.S. Government takeover of the facility is hanging in the air.

In addition, Correction Officers at the Cuyahoga County Jail have complained of harassment and violation of HIPAA Law’s as well as discrimination and having their employee rights violated.

The Leaked Letter

Frank Lee Hocker (Pictured) is a Corrections Officer & Union Director at the Cuyahoga County Jail.

To:  All Executive Staff, Executive Director Budish, Cuyahoga County Council,  Jail Wardens, Interim Regional Director George Taylor, and Head of Human Resources Ed Moralise.

From:  Union Director & Officer Frank L. Hocker.

I write this letter to address some issues that we are currently experiencing in our jails and I want to also address one of the negative consequences of the counties new attendance policy.  I’ve pondered over the issues at hand and I must say that as a Union Director, a Union Contract Negotiator, a Corrections Officer of the Cuyahoga County Jail – someone who has worked in your jails going on 18 years and one who has seen many of the issues that we face in the jail from the officers point of view on a day to day basis that I would be remiss if I did not speak up and address some of the false allegations and reports being spread by those in the Executive positions in our jail.

I believe that because of my experience as an officer, a tactical team member for 15 years, and because I have been involved with reporting many of these issues and concerns in our jail to our management team over the years that we all face as officers, that this letter is extremely urgent.

First, allow me to address a couple of things that will shed some light on the issues that we all face in our jail.  Now, as an officer, it amazes me that no one has asked the officers or the jail staff, what the real issue is in the jail concerning the recent resignations and the call-off’s of the line officers in the jail.  It amazes me that this management group has only looked at this subject as dollars and cents and not at the life safety of their officers. Therefore, management refuses to take responsibility for the current issues of the jail and has shifted the blame of the jail issue onto our officers.   Management refuses to find a real solution to address the real problems we all face in our jails.

Under Director Mills, saving money without a regard for anyone’s life was his only focus in the jail and in doing so, he turned the county jail into a war zone of management against line officers and created a hostile working environment for the line officers and inmates. Director Mills also re-located officers throughout all three jails (Downtown, Euclid, and Bedford) and shortened our staff in the main jail in major areas of the jail.  Shortened staff could be found in medical, the pods, SRT, and booking, which put undue labor on the officers and jeopardized medical staffing security.  Now as I watched the Council Meeting with HR Director Ed Moralise and Interim Jail Director George Taylor, I was appalled as a officer, to hear them both blame the issues at the Cuyahoga County Jail on our officers and on officer call offs.

The Interim Director said that RED ZONING is not caused by a shortage of staffing, but is caused by the staff calling in sick and failing to come to work. We have been short staffed for years, red zoning has been going on for over 18 years and for some reason the department refuses to hire what is needed to fill all posts in the jail. They make up new terms like “critical area”, in order to justify red zoning and they refuse to staff the jail completely (or fill every post). Every area of the jail is a critical area, as long as we house those who break the law, then every area of the jail is a critical area.

Which takes me back to the council meeting which was to get answers and get to the bottom of the issues in the jail. Now I was taken aback by something Mr. Taylor said in the council meeting, he said that on the day when the jail only had (4) four officers call off that there was no red zoning, and that was not an accurate statement in the least, because if you look at the jail roster for that day, you will find that certain areas of the jail were still red zoned. The Directors of the Officers Union reported this false statement by way of the grievance process which is public record. We have been red zoned everyday, even on the day in question.

The problem with these statements is that management feels that they can say something without a rebuttal because the officers are their employees and they can scare, threaten or try to fire them based on trust issues. I thought that we were the justice center, but how can we call ourselves law enforcement when we go after those who tell the truth or we silence those who refuse to go along with a lie.

Now, although call-offs are an issue throughout the whole county, this is not a true statement concerning red zoning in the Cuyahoga County Jail.  What sits at the center of all of the jail issues, of all the morale issues and even the growing resignations are the following three things…

 

Proper Staffing

“…the jail is still 22-32 officers short on every shift.” – Frank Hocker

This issue has plagued our department for many years and to hear management say that all the jails have the same problem or to shift the blame on the officers in the jail, does not address the issue at hand.  It’s because of the shortage of staff that the department is affected in every area of the jail (programs, courts, medical, social services, etc.).  As long as we continue to have a shortage of staff, officers will continue to be over worked, which is a major factor as to why call-off’s happen.  Many officers are tired of being forced to work an extra four hours everyday, they are tired of doing the job of four officers and only getting paid as one officer. It’s the shortage of staff that limits the ability of the jails to run effectively. The jail can not function at its best with the current “do more with less” doctrine.  Without the proper amount of officers to staff the jail the jail goes into red zone which is hated by both the officers and inmates. This red zoning is stressing the whole jail out because you do not have enough officers to fill the vacant positions in the jail.

How long does it take for the county to look at the jails staffing and to rectify this issue?  When do we go beyond our desks and offices and visit the jails and look at the issues for ourselves?  We hear and have heard that the jail is at a critical point, but not one person from the Executive staff has come into the jail and has spoken to the line officers in the Jail. It’s a proven fact that without officers to work the jail, we really don’t have a jail, we have an understaffed, over worked, disgruntled, under paid, group of individuals being lead by those who don’t care about their employees enough to address what has become a hostile work environment for both the officer and the inmate. The weight and the magnitude of staffing this jail has caused those who love this job to become insensitive and churlish with those that they supervise.

It’s a fact that when everyone shows up to work that the jail is still 22-32 officers short on every shift. That means constant red zoning, quadruple podding, and sometimes no jail relief, that means that pod officers are stuck in a pod without any relief to go to the bathroom or even to go to lunch. We have had officers who have defecated on themselves or urinated on themselves because they had no relief to go to the bathroom and then they are threatened with being written up for abandonment of post if they leave to go to the bathroom.  When a officer is sick, it’s seen as a joke and they are constantly forced to stay at work even when they are sick which causes other officers to get sick. It does the jail no good to have a person with the flu working and infecting his peers because he is forced to stay at work based on short staffing. The department has chosen staffing over the lives of their officers. Its not common sense to have a sick officer stay at work because the department refuses to staff the jail properly.  This is not an emergency issue because the department has known about the short staffing of the jail for years. This is what leads to over worked employees and careless deaths of those that we house.

A lack of sleep and a lack of consideration of your officers health is a major issue in our department and it needs to be addressed. Officers whom are sick can’t get relieved to go to get medical treatment for 8 hours because the department doesn’t have anyone to relieve them from their post.  Red zoning also means that we will be constantly forced over at the end of our shift to work longer hours. This has caused a division in the jail between the staff and the officers and many times it’s the reason for hostility of the inmates towards the officers.  The inmates believe that the officers are keeping them locked down and the officers and the management are very indifferent because the Sgt’s don’t have enough personnel to cover the rotations and the officer is being over worked.

 

Retention of Officers

Instead of the department focusing on how to fire or get rid of officers by tardiness, the department needs to find a way to retain those good officers that we currently have. Some will try to say that this job isn’t for everybody, but it’s amazing to me that good officers with many years of service are leaving the jail at an alarming rate and no one is asking them why. I am talking about Veteran Officers with 12, 15, or 21 years of service who want to retire but are coming into work and handing in their resignations.

There is a big issue in our jails with officer bullying, harassment, ethics and also the retaliation against those officers who speak up. Everyone is afraid to speak up for fear of losing their job and for telling the truth.  As a person who believes in God, I refuse to walk in fear and allow this to go unaddressed.

This department has a way of twisting the truth if it does not fit into what they call the interest of the county.  This department also has a way of trying to make those who address the concerns of the jail look like they are disgruntled because they choose life safety over hiding the facts.  Did you know that the majority of the issues that the Federal Marshal’s found in their jail report are many of the same issues that myself and many of the Union Directors have previously addressed and brought to the attention of the administration in writing?  And that each of them, in order to keep business the same as usual and to save money, was denied in their entirety by management and HR.

This Cuyahoga County Jail would have never gotten to the level it did if the department would have taken the life safety of their officers and the grievances seriously.  What’s crazy is that it took the media, and the Judges and a medical director to say what we have said and have been saying over and over again for years, only for it to fall on deaf ears.  It hurts my heart at the core to see how our officers are treated because they tried to be team players and reported these issues to preserve life.  

 

Management Sensitivity Training

The majority of those in management are not required to be trained to be a manager. What keeps or retains those who work for you is morale and trust. When the trust is no longer in place and you continue to crush the spirit of those who work for you, they will leave money and the benefits for a benefit of a piece of mind. If all we do is hire to fire and not address the ethics issues in our jails and the constant bullying of officers we will one day wake up and not have a jail.

If you get a chance please ask for a records request for those who have resigned in the last year alone and you will see that their is a major problem in our jails. We work a job that houses those who break the law and some of them are violent offenders and our starting pay is $15.31 and Google and Cleveland Clinic has changed it’s minimum wage to $15.00 per hour.  If we continue to bully and over work a new hire – just know that they now know that they have options that don’t put their lives at risk.

The new attendance policy doesn’t address those who call off per se but it penalizes those who come to work. If I call off from coming to work the attendance policy does not affect me but if I come into work and show up one minute late I now receive an occurrence.  With the shortage of staff and the extra work and stress now being placed on the shoulders of those who come to work, this will cause the jail to lose more officers than retaining them because the policy focuses on those who come to work and not those who call off. Imagine if you fire those who come to work and are over worked for being late to work but doesn’t address the excessive call-off’s. I have a feeling that this policy will cause the department to lose more officers than to retain them.

I would like to thank you in advance for you taking the time out of your busy schedules to listen to my concerns.

Respectfully Submitted,

Union Director Frank Hocker

COBRA Says:  To all the F.B.I agents and various government agencies that frequent our website on a daily, the following statement is for you…  In what world do 3 out of 4 people who were in charge of an organization or business that resulted in dozens of deaths due to negligence get to remain in power?  In order for this jail to truly change – all individuals who hold high ranking positions must be held accountable.  Unless Armond Budish (County Executive), Eric Ivey (Warden), Ken Mills (Regional Director) and Clifford Pinkney (Sherrif) are all removed or resign from their posts the risk is far too great for the staff and inmates that are within this jail.  As of this writing, only one of the 4 named above have resigned, that being Ken Mills, with Eric Ivey agreeing to and then ultimately abruptly refusing to resign and then threatening to sue the county if he is fired.  Each of the three individuals that currently remain in positions of power have had ample notification, opportunity and the ability to make necessary and effective changes that would have protected the staff and the inmates at the Cuyahoga County Jail.  As a result, they have intentionally and unlawfully refused to adhere to the Ohio Housing Guidelines and even gone as far as to intentionally violate the constitutional rights of ten’s of thousands over the years.  They have failed miserably.  If these individuals refuse to resign from their posts, then this is a clear indicator that things will not change.  After reading this most recently leaked letter I have come to the conclusion (as I’m sure you have already derived at yourselves) there is only one option that is on the table.  And that option is a total takeover of the jail unless all top level individuals that have been listed above resign or are  removed, because they are the ones that are responsible for the deaths of dozens, they are the ones that refused to hear any grievances or complaints from their staff (or inmates), grievances and complaints just like the one that you have read… 

The Bottom Line:  Individuals who commit crimes should not be entitled to living conditions like “The Ritz”.  However, they should be fully entitled to their constitutional rights and the guidelines and laws that have been established by the State of Ohio.  How can we expect criminals to follow the letter of the law or for inmates to adhere to jail policy if the jail itself doesn’t adhere to laws that have been established?  Just think about that for a second.  Rules and laws are created for a reason, we expect everyone across the board, inside and outside of the jail to be upstanding citizens and not commit crimes or harm the community in which they reside.  Yet, if someone violates the law and are placed in a jail that violates the law, the guidelines and even their constitutional amendments – what kind of example is being set for their release back into society?  Furthermore, some of these people are actually innocent, albeit a very small percentage, but there are some.   There are also people who have low level convictions, misdemeanors, first offenders, and they are also being subjected to inhumane and outrageous conditions.  Lastly, even the worst offender and repeat offenders who are subjected to this treatment are STILL U.S. Citizens.  What has happened for decades is sick and disgusting and if ANYONE ran a business or organization like the Cuyahoga County Jail did they would be imprisoned!

SCUMBAGGED Tip:  If things are allowed to blow over and if pressure isn’t maintained then absolutely nothing is going to change.  The local news and Scumbagged itself has reported on a myriad of issues dating back to 20 years worth that have stemmed from unconstitutional acts and horrible housing conditions at the Cuyahoga County Jail.  Individuals are simply blaming Director Ken Mills for the failure, yet there are primary individuals who are still at the top that have directly and deliberately orchestrated and permitted these acts to continue.  Nobody is naive enough to believe that one person (Ken Mills) was responsible for the conditions that inmates and staff have been subjected to.  What has happened also lies with the Executive Director, Budish, the Warden, Eric Ivey & the Sheriff – Clifford Pinkney.  Keep the pressure on or nothing will change…

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