Community groups protest conditions at Cuyahoga County Jail

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CLEVELAND –Seven inmates dead, thousands more living in inhumane conditions. Angry residents took their frustrations about the Cuyahoga County Jail straight to the county council.

Dozens of demonstrators protested in front of the Cuyahoga County Administration Building Tuesday afternoon, calling for a major overhaul at the troubled county jail.

In the past five months, seven inmates have died inside the facility. Last month, the U.S. Marshal’s Office released a report, uncovering more than 100 problems in the jail, including inmates not receiving medication, being denied food as punishment, and juveniles mixed in with adults.

“Vermin and mice have been identified in the kitchen and storage areas, the overcrowding of inmates, including pregnant women sleeping on mattresses on the floor,” said Yvonka Marie Hall, executive director of the Northeast Ohio Black Health Coalition.

“While all of you are busy pointing fingers, at least seven people have died since June, you knew and you did nothing (applause) you knew and you did nothing,” said one speaker during the council meeting.

Although the jail was not on the night’s agenda, roughly 30 people addressed county council members ahead of a regularly scheduled meeting — a meeting that turned heated at times.

“We are going to maintain decorum; we are going to (pounds gavel) maintain decorum. That’s the way it’s gonna be,” said council president Dan Brady.

“Why I have to go through diplomatic process when they violate the law?” One audience member asked angrily.

“By not addressing the culture of jailers, you’re only putting makeup on a pig or a fresh coat of paint on a junk car, so please don’t sell us a lemon or think that we want to kiss your pig,” said a member of Black Lives Matter Cleveland.

“I want to assure you that fixing the jail is our highest priority,” said Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish.

Budish says a quarter of the problems at the jail have been fixed, and says the facility is outdated and inefficient.

“I understand how painful this is for our community; we are not proud of the fact that our jail has been labeled inhumane,” he said.

Budish says he is working with judges and prosecutors on bail reform, and reducing the number of low level, non-violent offenders. He is also asking the council to work on providing funding needed to make some of the necessary changes.

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