After deplorable conditions—and a slew of deaths—have kept Cuyahoga County Jail in Cleveland in the headlines, a judge has vowed to stop sending his low-level defendants to the jail.
Municipal Judge Michael Nelson says he’s no longer comfortable “setting bonds for people charged with crimes unless they’re charged with violent crimes,” writes Cleveland.com, meaning the judge will stop sending people committing nonviolent crimes to the jail.
The outlet says Judge Nelson contacted them after reading a story about a sixth inmate who died in the Cuyahoga jail in only a four-month span.
“The first thing I did this morning when I saw [the cleveland.com] story is look to see if it was someone I sent to jail,” Nelson told the outlet. “I’m giving personal bonds to everyone from now on unless they’re the worst of the worst until things get figured out at the jail.”
Nelson also said he will try to set up a meeting with jail officials to shed light on why so many inmates have died recently.
According to an earlier Cleveland.com article, of the six people who died in Cuyahoga County Jail custody this year, two hanged themselves, two died of apparent overdoses, and two deaths—including the most recent one—are under investigation.
On Saturday, a local Fox affiliate reported guards had recently filed a complaint about overcrowding at the jail. According to the complaint, 165 inmates in the 2,100 bed-jail have been sleeping on the floor.
Guards have spoken out about the dangers overcrowding poses to themselves and inmates and county leaders have warned that medical care in the jail is inadequate. According to the New York Times, Cuyahoga County Sheriff Clifford Pinkney said the jails’ inmates were struggling with addiction and psychological problems. And a 2017 report released by the Pretrial Justice Institute found the Cuyahoga County Jail, specifically, has been operating at over “100 percent capacity, on average, in four of the previous five years.”