Whistle-blower claims Cuyahoga County Jail inmate woes are, in part, due to staffing shortage

Whistle-blower claims Cuyahoga County Jail inmate woes are, in part, due to staffing shortage

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - The Cuyahoga County Jail has been under intense scrutiny since 2018, and once again, the issues boiled over into public view.

“The level of disrespect I see at these meetings by Ken Mills to the sheriff. The eye rolling body language, body movements. I’ve never seen this in my professional career," said former Cuyahoga County Jail Medical Director, Gary Brack.

It was a spectacle.

Members of the Cuyahoga County Council sat stunned as Brack accused Mills of deliberately blocking the hiring of desperately needed nurses and corrections officers at the facility that’s been running at more than 100 percent capacity for the past five years.

“I’ve never blocked nurses from coming into the jail," said Mills.

But months later Mills would stand charged by federal authorities for lying about that very issue.

And for his efforts, Brack would be fired from his position at the jail on the orders of County Executive Armond Budish.

Last spring, U.S. Marshals released a devastating report making it all but impossible for county officials to continue claiming problems at the jail were under control. The report called conditions there “inhumane.”

Over the course of the last year alone, nine inmates at the jail have died by suicide, drug withdrawal, or other causes.

Army Bational Guard vet, Nicholas Colbert, 36, charged with drug possession, took his own life.

Joseph Arquillo, 47, jailed on a probation violation, died of a drug overdose in full view of surveillance cameras.

“I was privy to everything at the jail and it was horrifying," said Brack.

In an exclusive interview with 19 News, “whistle-blower” Gary Brack claims the deaths of inmates at the Cuyahoga County Jail are directly tied to the understaffing he warned about.

“The inmate population we get is sick. With the opioid crisis in Cuyahoga County, with the number of people who come in with substance abuse disorder. Those people need to be seen. Those people need to be examined,” said Brack.

But wait a minute: how can the jail be so overcrowded and understaffed if violent crime in Cuyahoga County has actually been on the way down for years?

According to a report by a group called the Pretrial Institute, while crime reported in Cuyahoga County has been on the steady decline since 2012, the number of inmates booked into the jail has gone steadily up.

“We have two big jails that are housing right now over 2,000 inmates when it was designed for a capacity of 1,700, said Terry Gilbert.

Gilbert is one of the best known civil rights attorneys in Cleveland, and is involved in a class action lawsuit against the county.

Gilbert said the county is renting out beds at the jail to surrounding communities like Bedford Heights, Euclid, and the federal government.

“You know running a jail is what a government should do for protection of the community. It shouldn’t be a money making proposition," said Gilbert.

19 News reached out to Budish for comment, but we were told there will be none until after the U.S. Marshal’s release their updated findings on conditions at the jail.

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