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Judge's letter warns of lawsuit seeking federal takeover of county jail

Following damning report of conditions behind bars
Posted at 5:47 PM, Nov 29, 2018
and last updated 2019-01-08 17:05:13-05

A Cuyahoga County judge is warning the county jail of a possible federal takeover. 

In a letter to fellow Cuyahoga County judges, Administrative and Presiding Judge John Russo said he's "become aware of a lawsuit that will be filed in Federal Court regarding the County Jail."

Russo went on to say that, "I am told they will be asking for the Federal Court to take over control of the jail."

Russo's letter comes just a week after a damning review of conditions in the county jail. 

Officials and US Marshal's wanted a review following the deaths of at least six jail inmates in recent months. 

RELATED: U.S. Marshals pulling out of downtown county jail following damning report

US Marshal Pete Elliott said the review team called the jail "one of the worst places they've ever seen."

The 52-page report detailed what some called inhumane conditions in the county lock-up including overcrowding, a shortage of guards, and unsanitary conditions.

Russo's letter did not specify who was behind the lawsuit or when it would be filed. The judge, through his secretary, said he had no comment on the letter.

But Thursday afternoon, the law firm of Friedman & Gilbert issued a statement saying it condemns "the unconstitutional, dangerous, and inhumane conditions under which people are suffering in the Cuyahoga County jail." The statement also says the firm is investigating what it called human rights violations and "considering all options to force Cuyahoga County and jail administrators to take the necessary steps to immediately improve conditions in the jail, including through a federal civil-rights lawsuit."

A county spokeswoman said she had not seen the judge's letter Thursday afternoon.

A spokesperson for the US Department of Justice said she could not confirm nor deny the agency was looking into conditions inside the jail.



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