CLEVELAND -- The FOX 8 I-Team has obtained video showing how some prisoners at the Cuyahoga County Jail have been able to unlock their own cell doors.
The video shows it being done with a plastic spoon and also an empty snack bag of chips.
So we started asking questions.
The I-Team is putting a spotlight on this because jail guards say the problem needs addressed immediately. Documents from the union for the guards show warnings and complaints sent to management. One document shows five inmates popped cell doors. And this has been a problem on “ several occasions.” Inmates even have broken out of their cells and ended up in other cells.
“Obviously our concern is for the safety of our correction officers, but there are concerns for the inmates as well,” said Dan Leffler, chief of staff with the union, the Ohio Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association.
Leffler adds, short staffing makes the problem worse especially when one guard has to watch two inmate pods. Leffler said, "Essentially that is between 90 and 100 inmates between the two different pods, so you can imagine the situation when there's one lone officer, and some of these inmates can get out of their cells."
It may seem incredible inmates can get out of their cells just like that. But the I-Team found this has been a problem before. Way back in 2013, the union filed a grievance or complaint about it. And the county said it would "fix the locks in question."
The I-Team went looking for the jail wardens. Later, a Cuyahoga County spokesperson called to say the county is addressing the problem. Mary Louise Madigan said maintenance workers have checked out every lock in the part of the jail where this has been a problem. Plus, inmates are not allowed to keep spoons anymore. Guards now have to check each door for any kind of obstruction.
The county says maintenance workers only found one lock malfunctioning. However, just days ago guards filed another complaint about problems with cell doors and locks. The union would like to bring in its own expert to assess the locks.
Meantime, guards don’t believe they should be held responsible for any inmates getting out of their cells due to these issues.
We showed the video to some people at the Justice Center with loved ones in the jail. A wife of one inmate agreed the jail is no place to take chances.
No inmates have actually gotten completely out of the jail.