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Cuyahoga County Jail Receives Fewer Citations In New State Report

The Cuyahoga County Justice Center complex in 2014. [Nick Castele / ideastream]
The Cuyahoga County Justice Center complex in 2014.

The Cuyahoga County Jail improved its performance in the latest annual state review, correcting dozens of infractions inspectors flagged a year ago.

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction found the jail out of compliance with 17 state standards, according to the 2019 report. Last year’s report found 84 violations.

During inspectors’ Nov. 4 visit, the jail’s two-way communication system was either absent or not working in several parts of the facility. The state also cited the facility for poor lighting.

“At the time of the inspection, there were cells in ‘Jail 1’ that had no natural light,” state inspectors wrote, referring to a portion of the main jail facility at the Downtown Justice Center. “In some areas, there were no windows at all, and in other areas, the windows were painted black.”

Jail officials did not always staff required security posts, leading to “red-zoning” lockdowns, inspectors found. Staff also did not follow policies and prosecutors for issuing keys, according to the report.

Many violations cited in last year—such as broken showers and toilets, soiled inmate clothing and a lack of documented medical procedures—did not appear in this year’s report.

The 2018 report counted about 2,200 inmates in the Downtown jail. While this year’s report noted that parts of the jail remain overcrowded, the overall population is now just below the official total  capacity of 1,765.

The jail has faced increased scrutiny from state and local officials after a string of inmate deaths prompted a scathing U.S. Marshals Service report in November 2018. Gov. Mike DeWine announced this June that the state would inspect the county jail monthly.

Prosecutors have pursued charges against corrections officers and former jail leaders as part of a state criminal investigation.

A judge sentenced the former warden, Eric Ivey, to one year of probation in October. Ivey pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of obstruction and falsification, agreeing to testify in future cases involving the jail or county government.

In September, a jury acquitted two corrections officers of several charges in the alleged beating of an inmate. The jury failed to reach a verdict on two counts, which prosecutors have said they plan to retry.

Nick Castele was a senior reporter covering politics and government for Ideastream Public Media. He worked as a reporter for Ideastream from 2012-2022.