County jail releasing people convicted of misdemeanors because of COVID-19 pandemic

Those who were convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors will not be released.
Updated: Dec. 14, 2020 at 7:04 PM EST
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - The Cuyahoga County jail is releasing people convicted of misdemeanors to reduce the number of people housed in the jail and combat the spread of COVID-19 in the facility, according to a media release from the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department.

Those who were convicted of domestic violence charges will not be released.

Municipal courts and other agencies will have the opportunity to pickup inmates who are eligible for release to transport them to another facility.

“We are again forced to take significant steps to reduce the inmate population of the correction center, which has increase steadily to over 1,350,” Cuyahoga County sheriff David G. Schilling Jr. wrote in the release.

On Friday, the 237 out of 1,351 inmates were infected with COVID-19, said Robert Coury, chief of public safety and justice services for Cuyahoga County in a separate press release.

The Cuyahoga County jail has struggled to maintain staffing levels as employees have also fallen ill. On Friday, about 83 jail employees were out sick - about half because of the coronavirus, according to a county spokesperson.

The jail accepted the help from the National Guard last week after Governor Mike DeWine offered to provide troops to provide security support at local jails, according to Coury.

The decision to release these inmates comes after the head of MetroHealth warned county officials “that if the population is not quickly brought ... down, we could likely see an explosion of infections at the jail (and possibly deaths),” according to the release.

The facility will continue to refuse to jail people who are arrested for new misdemeanors other than for the charge of domestic violence, according to the release.

On Tuesday, Cuyahoga County executive Armond Budish said that the state is considering allocating $1 million to support the construction of a new Metal Health and Addiction Diversion Center, which would divert people with a mental health condition or addiction problem away from the jail.

“Right now, our jail is the de facto place where many of these people end up. That doesn’t help them get on a path to recovery and return to our communities as healthy, productive people,” Budish wrote in a press release.

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