State Rep. Jeff Crossman (D-Parma) and state Sen. Nickie J. Antonio (D-Lakewood) unveiled a legislative proposal to increase accountability for compliance with jail standards across Ohio.
“It is apparent that there are changes that can and must be made legislatively to address systematic issues that manifested in Cuyahoga County's jail,” said Crossman. “As state legislators, we bear responsibility for helping get this right. The issues with the jail in Cuyahoga County did not develop overnight and appear to represent a failure of a larger system. However, it is important to be clear, our purpose with this proposal is not to cast blame or find fault, it is to acknowledge the existing problems and work together to make improvements that deliver on Ohio's promise to treat all of its citizens fairly and with dignity.”
Since 2018, nine people have died while in detention at the Cuyahoga County Jail. Reports from the media, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) and findings in a 2018 U.S. Marshall’s report indicate persistent issues at the jail, including frequent injuries, lack of medical care for detainees and criminal charges filed against employees.
“Local jails are intended to operate as a temporary detention facility until a detainee’s case proceeds. We should not fear for the lives of people detained in our jails awaiting trial or transfer,” said Antonio. “The fact that lives that have been lost in our jail indicate the situation is dire and urgent. We look forward to working with the Governor’s office and other stakeholders to address this critical issue.”
Crossman and Antonio’s anticipated legislation will aim to:
- Create a specific compliance period during which a non-compliant facility must address deficiencies
- Mandate the ODRC file a lawsuit to obtain compliance if a local jail operator does not obtain compliance during a mandated compliance period
- Permit a temporary appointment of an outside corrections expert to be assigned for a designated period of time to remediate unresolved deficiencies following an inspection
- Provide a mechanism to seek the temporary suspension of operations or the closure of a facility that is unable to secure timely compliance
- Institute a whistleblower hotline through the Ohio Attorney General’s Office
- Create a bipartisan commission to further investigate and evaluate Ohio’s local jail systems
You can watch the press conference below: