FBI looking into possible civil rights issues at Ohio jail

Six inmates have died at the Cuyahoga County Jail over three months

By Adam Ferrise, Courtney Astolfi and Eric Heisig
Advance Ohio Media

CLEVELAND — The FBI is looking into possible civil rights violations in the Cuyahoga County jail, where six people have died this year in over three months, sources have told cleveland.com.

Whether the inquiry, which started as early as June, was sparked by the deaths is unclear. Conditions at the jail, where the population exceeds capacity by hundreds of prisoners, are terrible, according to guards, former prisoners and other former and present jail employees.

Guards are overwhelmed with the crowded pods, where inmates sleep on cots. The packed-in cells are locked down in what jail officials call "red-zoning" for most of the day, according to sources. And a state inspection found guards failed to do the state-required medical screenings within 14 days. The jail also has been infested with bed bugs in recent years.

The deaths spurred an outcry from Cleveland Municipal Judge Michael Nelson, a former president of the Cleveland NAACP, who said Wednesday that he would no longer send non-violent offenders from his court to the jail over concern for their health and safety.

Details of the probe and what spurred it were unclear Thursday night. However, its revelation comes the same day Sheriff Clifford Pinkney announced that he wants to hire an independent expert to assess the jail's operations.

County spokeswoman Mary Louise Madigan said Thursday evening that she did not have any information about the FBI's interests and that she will answer questions when she does. County Executive Armond Budish could not immediately be reached for comment.

Of the six deaths deaths this year, two hanged themselves, two had drugs in their system and two remain under investigation.

The most recent death came Tuesday, though county officials have not said how 44-year-old Allan Martin Gomez died.

The others include:

  • Larry Johnson
  • Esteben Parra
  • Joseph Arquillo 
  • Gregory Fox
  • Randy Kain
McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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