With the Cuyahoga County jail hundreds of inmates over capacity, county leaders continued pushing plans to house more inmates and the dollars they would bring.
In a committee hearing last April, then-jail administrator Ken Mills told Cuyahoga County Council's Public Safety Committee there was widespread interest in turning the downtown jail into a regional center for housing inmates.
"Since we have been speaking about it, I have 16 of the municipalities with interest in it, in having us do that," Mills told the committee.
Under the plan, the county would house inmates for suburban cities. The cities would then pay the county per inmate, per day.
Mills told the committee that a $3.1 million project to turn an unused kitchen area into dormitories would increase the jail's capacity by up to 180 beds.
"So long as we keep the beds filled-up, I think it's a very safe projection to say $3.5 to $5.5 million a year will come in from operating that, from having that capacity," said Mills.
A review of the jail by US Marshals found that the jail's capacity was 1,765 inmates. On the day inspectors visited, Cuyahoga County housed 2,420 inmates. Even an additional 180 beds would have still left the jail over capacity by 475 inmates.
Inspectors noted holding cells designed for two people had up to 12 people in them. Two pregnant women were also found to be sleeping on mattresses on the floor.
In the six months following Mills' appearance before the committee, an average of one inmate every four weeks died in the jail.
The Marshal's report also found there were 55 suicide attempts at the facility in the last year.
"I don't think this is an overnight thing," US Marshal Pete Elliott said of the jail's problems. "I think this has been going on for years and years."
Mills resigned earlier this month, before the release of the report.
Councilman Michael Gallagher who chairs the Public Safety Committee believes the county cannot morally move forward with any plans to add inmates until, in his words, "We figure out what in God's name is going on here."
Gallagher said he plans to invite county administrators and the authors of the report to appear before the committee.
"I think all these questions need to be answered in a public forum," Gallagher said.