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Ohio Ends Extra Oversight Of Cuyahoga County's Troubled Jail

Protestors gathered outside the Justice Center in Downtown Cleveland on May 29 to rally against conditions in the county jail. [Matthew Richmond / ideastream]
photo of justice center protest

Ohio officials are scaling back increased, monthly scrutiny of the Cuyahoga County jail, nearly two years after a damning U.S. Marshals Service report on conditions there.

The state will now only inspect the facility yearly.

In a Monday memo to Cuyahoga County Sheriff David Schilling, the state official in charge of inspections, the administrator of Ohio’s Bureau of Adult Detention said the jail has improved enough to end monthly inspections.

“The Plans of Action submitted for the remaining deficiencies appear to identify the proposed means for bringing the Cuyahoga County Correction Center back into compliance with these standards,” administrator John Adams wrote. “We encourage you to implement these changes as soon as possible.”

The memo listed seven areas where the jail still falls short of standards, but did not include descriptions of those standards.

The decision comes two years after the U.S. Marshals report on the jail found extensive problems with the sanitary conditions, physical safety, food and health care provided to inmates.

Kevin Ballou of the Coalition to Stop the Inhumanity at the Cuyahoga County Jail criticized the state’s decision, saying it is based on a superficial review of conditions there.

“They didn’t address the issue of how the staff treats the population in there, which is the structural problem,” Ballou said.

There are ongoing issues at the jail, Ballou said, including insufficient medical care for inmates, low-quality food and mistreatment of inmates by staff, especially the special response team, known as the “Men in Black”.

The most recent reports from the state prison authority did find improvements in the jail’s medical care, which is now provided by MetroHealth. Inspections also show new food service equipment installed in the jail kitchen and better sanitary conditions in most parts of the jail, including fresh paint.

But problems at the county facility persist.

On Aug. 30, a transgender woman named Lea Daye died in the jail, after complaining in an unmailed letter about sanitary conditions and bad food.  And earlier this month, two inmates were accidentally released – around the time of the most recent state inspection.

Matthew Richmond is a reporter/producer focused on criminal justice issues at Ideastream Public Media.