Civil-rights lawsuit against Cuyahoga County over ‘deplorable’ jail conditions seeks independent monitor to oversee reforms

December 20, 2018

Civil-rights lawsuit against Cuyahoga County over ‘deplorable’ jail conditions seeks independent monitor to oversee reforms

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Seven inmates of the Cuyahoga County Jail filed a lawsuit against the county and a host of county and jail officials on Thursday, weeks after the release of a federal report detailing “inhumane” and potentially unconstitutional conditions at the jail.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court Northern District of Ohio, seeks an independent monitor to oversee changes at the jail.

“Cuyahoga County Corrections Center…is operating under a state of constant crisis, endangering the health and safety of Detainees/Inmates and staff alike on a daily basis,” the lawsuit says. “CCCC is underfunded, understaffed, poorly administered, and intentionally overcrowded, giving rise to a chaotic and perilous environment inside the jail walls.”

The inmates are represented by the law firm of Friedman & Gilbert, attorneys with Porter Wright Morris & Arthur, and James Hardiman of the Cleveland branch of the NAACP. The lawsuit seeks class-action status. If a judge grants class-action status, more plaintiffs could join the legal effort.

The suit names Cuyahoga County, County Executive Armond Budish, Sheriff Clifford Pinkney, Warden Eric Ivey, interim Director of Regional Corrections George Taylor, Chief Public Safety and Justice Services Officer Brandy Carney, Medical Director Thomas Tallman and the MetroHealth System as defendants.

The details of the lawsuit should come as no surprise to anyone who read the U.S. Marshals Service’s 52-page report detailing crowding, bullying by corrections officers, spoiled food and deplorable conditions throughout the jails.

Allegations contained within the lawsuit include:

Inmates remaining in custody for unnecessarily long periods of time. Long-standing problems with jail crowding.A  former jail official was removed after he spoke out against conditions at the jail.Inmates are regularly denied medical and mental-health care.Detainees are not given proper access to attorneys.Poor  hygienic conditions.Inedible  food. Denied access to religious services.

Oversight of the jail could include the possibility of a court-enforced agreement, which, if approved, would be the third time in 50 years that the county has entered into one over conditions in its jail. One was filed in 1971 under then Sheriff Ralph Krieger, and the second was filed in 1984 under then Sheriff Gerald McFaul. Both resulted in the construction or expansion of the downtown jail at the Justice Center, where inmates are currently housed.

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