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'It was disgusting' — Inspector speaks about county jail conditions on day 2 of former director's trial

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Posted at 10:41 AM, Aug 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-26 18:44:33-04

CLEVELAND — Cuyahoga County's deputy inspector general didn't mince words Thursday as she testified how parts of the Cuyahoga County jail were so bad in the fall of 2018 that "no human" should be kept there.

"It smelled like garbage, like old, rotten funk," said Deputy Inspector General Sicily Woods. "It was disgusting."

Woods testified she was the lead investigator into the Inspector General Office's probe of a string of deaths inside the jail in 2018.

She said that investigators revealed food in the jail's freezer that had expired two years earlier, inmates being forced to sleep on mats on floors because of overcrowding, and staffing shortages so severe that it made filling a schedule nearly impossible.

"There was a female officer who had to use the restroom," said Woods. "She called for relief. Relief did not show up. She stated, out of fear of losing her position, she didn’t want to leave her pod to go to the bathroom and she couldn’t hold it any longer and she ended up using it on herself."

Cuyahoga County's former Regional Director of Corrections Ken Mills is charged with dereliction of duty and lying to the county council.

Prosecutors said Mills failed to provide for inmates' basic needs.

But defense attorneys said there was only so much Mills could do to fix the jail's problems.

"If a judge had lowered bonds or prosecutors had lowered bonds there would be less people right?" said defense attorney Jim McDonnell. "He [Mills] can't just let them out."

Defense attorneys also pushed back on the idea that Mills blocked the hiring of additional nurses in the jail, by pointing to problems in the county's hiring process at the time.

But the jail's former nursing director testified he warned Mills for years that changes in staffing were putting lives at risk.

"When I was telling him what needed to be done, he was totally obtrusive to it," said Marcus Harris. "Just resistant — this was the way he wanted to do things."

Six Cuayhoga County jail inmates died of various causes during six months between June and December 2018.

View a timeline of problems at the county jail during Mills's tenure and beyond here.

Mills resigned in November 2018 just days before the release of a US Marshal's report that called conditions inside the jail "inhumane."

RELATED: Trial begins for former Cuyahoga County Jail director accused of dereliction of duty

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