Latest Cuyahoga County Jail death renews call for federal oversight

CLEVELAND -- For the ninth time in less than a year, an inmate has died while serving time in the Cuyahoga County Jail. However, the latest death is renewing a call for federal oversight of the troubled correctional facility.

In recent months, there has been a change in jail leadership, new policies implemented and corrections officers indicted on criminal charges.

Around 2:30 p.m. Friday, a 36-year-old inmate was found unresponsive inside the jail.

County spokeswoman Mary Louise Madigan said the inmate was brought to the jail on Wednesday for a drug possession charge in Maple Heights. She said hours before he was discovered, the inmate had been moved to a special pod for military veterans.

Around 3:00 p.m., he was pronounced dead at MetroHealth Medical Center.

"It really is a horrible situation over there," said longtime Cleveland attorney Terry Gilbert.

In December, Gilbert filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of current and former inmates of the jail to challenge "inhumane, dangerous and unconstitutional conditions."

At the time, there had been seven inmate deaths.

"This is extraordinary to have nine deaths in the last year...for a county this size, it's almost like an epidemic," Gilbert said.

Madigan said the inmate who died Friday had multiple medical screenings when he arrived, part of recent reforms to improve jail conditions.

Attorney Gilbert said he believes there should be federal oversight of the facility.

"I don't believe we can completely trust the county on their own to be able to cure this because their track record has been so horrible," he said.

Thursday, MetroHealth Medical Center officially took control of all medical treatment at the jail. A county spokeswoman told FOX 8 that jail officials are working with Metro and corrections officers to prevent future deaths.

"We get probably ten calls a day about one abuse or another…people who are living under horrible conditions, 24 hour a day lock up, about the sanitation, about the food, about the aggression of the COs, I mean it's still going on," Gilbert said.

The FOX 8 I-TEAM has learned that county corrections officers just approved a new contract that includes significant pay increases, and modifications to staffing, to help improve coverage of various shifts.

Continuing coverage, here.

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