Ohio county offers 12% raises to juvenile detention officers after agreeing to 20% for adult jail officers
Newly-hired detention center officers would earn about $21 an hour, up from the current $18 per hour starting wage
By Cory Shaffer
Advance Ohio Media, Cleveland
CLEVELAND, Ohio — Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish's administration on Monday offered to give 12% raises to juvenile detention center guards, far less than the 20% raises the county agreed to give corrections officers in its adult jail, according to records.
Juvenile Court Administrative Judge Thomas O'Malley had asked the county to match the raises agreed to for the downtown corrections officers in an Aug. 24 letter to County Public Safety Chief Robert Courty.
O'Malley's letter also warned of an impending staffing crisis at the juvenile detention center.
County spokeswoman Mary Louise Madigan said O'Malley responded to the county's offer on Monday afternoon. Madigan declined to discuss the negotiation amounts, but said the two sides were "continuing to cooperate" with one another.
Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court provided cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer with a copy of the proposal in response to a records request. The county's proposal would pay newly-hired detention center officers about $21 an hour, up from the current $18 per hour starting wage. Such a move would add about $500,000 to the court's roughly $4 million payroll.
O'Malley did not return a phone call seeking comment on the proposal.
The detention center has only about 80% of the officers it needs to properly staff the facility, O'Malley wrote in the letter to Coury. As a result, children who are being housed there are often kept in isolation because the center is understaffed, the letter says.
Ohio law bars locking down juvenile facilities without disciplinary infractions.
Teens in August broke windows, a TV and drop-ceiling tiles after officers did not let them out for recreation time due to low-staffing, according to juvenile court records.
O'Malley wrote that the under-staffing leads to detention center supervisors having to force more officers to work overtime shifts. That leads to burnout and ultimately more officers calling off sick, which in turn leads to more forced overtime, O'Malley wrote.
"The above-listed compensation requests are necessary to effectively address the needs of the youth within our care and to ensure the safe operation of the facility," O'Malley wrote. "Attempts to continue the operation of the Detention Facility under the present staffing conditions has the potential for catastrophe, which introduces an unacceptable level of liability to the Juvenile Court and Cuyahoga County."
The negotiation comes after the trial of former Cuyahoga County Jail director Ken Mills showed similar issues plagued the jail in the years leading up to more than a dozen inmates dying in 2018 and 2019.
Jail supervisors testified during the trial that the facility was chronically understaffed and had a hard time luring job candidates to be corrections officers. Former corrections officers testified how they were routinely forced into overtime due to short staffing, and inmates were being locked down for up to 20 hours a day.
A jury on Friday convicted Mills of misdemeanor dereliction of duty related to his management of the jail. The county is facing more than two dozen lawsuits related to the jail that could cost millions to settle.
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