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Cuyahoga County wants outside investigator to probe jails after six deaths in four months

October 4, 2018

Cuyahoga County wants outside investigator to probe jails after six deaths in four months

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Cuyahoga County will hire an outside investigator to probe issues at the Cuyahoga County Jail that led to six inmates dying in four months.

A statement from the county issued on Wednesday says that Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish’s administration will ask the county council to approve funding for an independent expert to investigate the jail’s entire operation, including the downtown Justice Center, the Euclid and Bedford jails. 

“We are very concerned about the recent deaths in the County jail,” the statement said. “While each situation is individual and we are still in the process of investigating the causes of each inmate’s death, there is a common thread – each death occurred within our County jail system.”

The statement comes after the most recent inmate death on Tuesday, a 44-year-old man who was jailed on cocaine possession charges.

It also comes a day after Cleveland Municipal Judge Michael Nelson said he would refuse to set bond for people charged with crimes unless they’re charged with the most serious crimes because he no longer believes the jail is safe.

The county promised to abide by recommendations made by the expert and make the investigator’s findings available to the public.

“We will do what is necessary and required to the ensure the safety of everyone who is placed in our jail,” the statement said.

Six inmates have died in county-run jails since June 22. Two hanged themselves, two had drugs in their system. The Cuyahoga County medical examiner is still trying to determine how the two most recent inmate deaths happened. Five inmates were housed at the downtown Justice Center and one in the Euclid Jail.

The county is also conducting internal investigations into all six deaths. No more than two inmates have died per year in Cuyahoga County custody in the past decade.

The county’s statement says the jails have become a “site of placement for people with severe drug problems, emotional problems and suicidal tendencies.”

“But these complexities do not relieve us of our responsibility to the safety and welfare of our inmates,” the statement says.

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