Judge says gang violence fueling unrest at Cuyahoga County Juvenile Justice Center

Updated: Jan. 15, 2018 at 4:58 PM EST
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CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - The eyebrow-raising disturbance at the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Justice Center caused more than $200,000 in damage, according to preliminary estimates.

It is a facility that has been at the center of repeated reform efforts. which has come under renewed scrutiny given the costly unrest.

Photos of the damage show broken out windows, overturned furniture and plumbing damage.

Prosecutor Michael O'Malley had a grim but accurate assessment of the situation saying, "Could it happen again? Absolutely. Could it be worse, could there be more damages, perhaps death? Anything's possible."

Cleveland 19 for years has documented the problems, all of which put staff members in danger.  Surveillance videos show a wide variety of violent behavior.  Unprovoked assaults by residents on one another. Repeated assaults on staff, who are at times left alone in pods with violent offenders.  At other times sprinklers heads have been  purposely broken to flood the facility.

The juveniles are only supposed to be here for short periods of time, until their cases are resolved.

Often they stay longer allowing gangs to establish relationships with younger offenders.  Gangs typically target 13- to 16-year-olds for recruitment.

Presiding Judge Kristen Sweeney explained the gangs' system this way "Vandalism will get you a point. I think assaulting another resident will get you a point or two. Assaulting a detention officer is two or three points, and the higher up the staff member the higher the points. So the higher up you go the higher your status."

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