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East Cleveland leaders, residents want city jail closed over health and safety concerns

Posted at 11:02 PM, Oct 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-05 02:22:32-04

EAST CLEVELAND, Ohio — Some East Cleveland city leaders and residents have health and safety concerns about conditions at the East Cleveland city jail.

East Cleveland Councilwoman Juanita Gowdy is demanding the jail be closed and all inmates transferred to another facility in a neighboring city until more extensive repairs can be made.

Gowdy said she's concerned about inmates at the jail, and is also worried the jail is a legal liability for a city that has suffered millions in lawsuit settlements in recent years.

“I am surprised and disgusted," Gowdy said. “It should be shut down for remodeling and everything else. Nobody should be in there and I am very upset about it. The state already said close it down, so what they have to do is follow what the state says because the safety of the inmates matters.”

Gowdy referenced a Jan. 30 inspection report from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections which revealed the jail was not in compliance with 66 separate standards.

The report outlined the jail failed to meet 38 essential standards and 28 standards that were deemed to be important.

The report revealed the jail "did not have a secure booking area," had "old non-functioning CCTV cameras still installed" and "didn't show the equipment necessary to maintain utilities, security and fire protection in an emergency which functioned properly."

East Cleveland community activist Justyn Anderson said the jail would have been shutdown if Cuyahoga County would have continued its effort to regionalize city jail operations, but that has now been put on hold.

“I believe that the jail needs to be shutdown immediately, the state has recommended that they house no one in this jail," Anderson said. “The residents need to rally and protest and do whatever they need to do to get this jail shutdown. Maybe they should talk with Cleveland Heights about housing the inmates in their jail. They were going to house the inmates in the Euclid jail, but the Euclid jail end up closing.”

East Cleveland Police Chief Scott Gardner responded to News 5 and said the jail passed a Cuyahoga County health inspection on Sept. 2.

Gardner said many of the state violations have been corrected to the best of his department's ability, based on the current city budget.

"Many of them listed as deficient were not deficient at all; they were because we had a new jail administrator and were not familiar with uploading the necessary documentation in the State's web site," Gardner said,

In a follow-up statement, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections spokesperson JoEllen Smith acknowledged the effort being made by jail staff.

"The jail is continuing to be actively engaged in the corrective action process," Smith said. "When the process is complete, a final letter will be issued noting the progress."

Still, residents like Stephen Acy, who said he spent one night at the jail on a misdemeanor last month, believes more must be done.

“I was placed in a holding cell that was full of blood and when I asked an officer when are they going to clean it up, I was told to mind my own business," Acy said. “There are toilets backed up with feces that are flooding the cells and they still have inmate housed in these cells.”