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Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court wants more money for officers

Union says focus should be on filling open jobs
Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court
Posted at 6:42 PM, Nov 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-05 18:42:53-05

CLEVELAND — Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court is asking county council to approve $631,000 for additional officers inside the troubled detention center.

Court administrators say the extra money would add 10 additional officers and allow teens more access to programming and volunteer opportunities.

Currently, the center follows the state standards of one staff member for every 12 residents. If approved, juvenile court predicts the ratio would be dropped to one staff member for every eight residents.

"The 12-to-one ratio of residents to staff established by the Ohio legislature may be sufficient in 87 counties, but this ratio is significantly insufficient in Cuyahoga County," said Deputy Court Administrator Tom Rehnert. "This is because of the level of needs of the children who are at the detention center and the degree of violence they are alleged to have perpetrated or have experienced in their lives."

Court administrators told council that more officers would mean less time teens would be locked in their rooms.

"If we have enough staff to sufficiently keep the kids busy with programming and activities, they're going to expend the energy instead of sitting there pondering how they're going to escape or fight one another," said administrator Tess Neff.

But the union representing detention officers said the county already relies on mandatory overtime to staff the detention center.

While a representative of Laborers Local 860 said he would welcome more officers, he'd like to see the current positions filled.

In their handout to county council, court administrators said as of June, there were 15 unfilled detention officer positions.

The union shared a payslip that showed one detention officer worked more than 96 hours of overtime during a two week period in September.

Reducing the resident-to-staff ratio was one of the suggestions made by consultants brought in after a riot inside the detention center in early 2018.

County council is expected to decide on the budget request later this month.