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Judge John J. Russo's letter about 'alarming' jail conditions gets 'indifferent' county's attention

Posted at 4:51 PM, Nov 08, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-08 16:51:19-05

A letter from Judge John J. Russo critical of current county jail and courthouse conditions has prompted a response from the office of Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish who is now calling upon the U.S. Marshals Service to evaluate and provide feedback on the conditions at the county jail.

Russo wrote the letter to Budish on behalf of the county judges, citing jail concerns following the deaths of inmates at the facility. 

"The County's indifference to the dangers created by failing to meet the needs of a very fragile and volatile prison population must end," Russo wrote.

In the letter, Russo said, while the court isn't responsible for jail operations, it cannot "ignore the effect of current conditions upon incarcerated individuals." 

The letter goes on to state that due to the lack of staffing at the jail, some inmates have had to wait a month to see medical and psychiatric staff and even longer for prescriptions. 

According to Budish's office, U.S. Marshal Pete Elliot has been asked to report on the jail issues and hand down recommendations on how to address them. 

Russo said he has also expressed concerns about safety in the county courthouse in the past. Russo said a lack of deputies and security has left individuals in courtrooms where "emotions and tension run high, at the greatest risk of danger."

"The safety and welfare of court and sheriff department staff, clients, attorneys and public who appear in our courtrooms has to be improved and maintained," Russo wrote.

The county executive's office said it has called for an independent study to be conducted regarding those staffing concerns.

"We certainly want to insure (sic) the appropriate level of security in our courthouse," Budish's Chief of Staff Earl Leiken said in a written statement. "The County has a deep concern and commitment to both the safety of our inmates and for the security levels in our courthouse."

You can read the full letter from Russo to the county executives office below: