Photo, Video Of Sleeping Cuyahoga County Jail Guards Point To Systemic Issues In Jail, Attorneys Say

CLEVELAND, Ohio — A photograph and a video provided to show two different guards at the Cuyahoga County Jail sleeping during attorney visitations in recent months.

One of the jail guards fell asleep at a table as four inmates, all un-restrained, sat next to him, according to the defense lawyer who captured the images and shared them with Another guard fell asleep as the attorney was locked in the contact visitation room with a defendant charged with murder.

The lawyer, who wishes to remain anonymous to avoid any potential ramifications against the clients the attorney represents, made it clear in a phone interview with that the images represent wider issues plaguing the jail, which has been plagued by staffing shortages and long hours for guards.

“I don’t fault them individually,” the attorney said of the two officers. “I fault the jail as a whole.”

Cuyahoga County Public Defender Mark Stanton, who on Monday blasted the jail’s handling of the attorney visitation process, agreed with that assessment in a brief phone interview Friday.

The images were not symptoms of the guards being disinterested in or not wanting to do their jobs, Stanton said.

“They’re underpaid, they’re completely overworked and stressed to the limit,” Stanton said. “They bust their rear-ends for us.”

County spokeswoman Mary Louise Madigan declined to discuss the attorneys’ assertions about the wider issues in the jail except to say that the county has hired a record number of corrections officers in recent months and hopes to hire more.

“Obviously, that’s not acceptable to any of us,” Madigan said in response to the images. “We will identify and discipline them.”

The issue is among a myriad of problems at the jail, including mistreatment of inmates, low morale among the understaffed jail officer roster, officers beating inmates and selling them drugs and several inmates being mistakenly released from the jail, including a man accused of murder.

Nine inmates died of either drug overdoses or suicide in less than a year’s time beginning in 2018, spurring a damning U.S. Marshal’s report that called the jail’s conditions inhumane, several civil lawsuits and a criminal investigation that has led to indictments of several corrections officers and the jail’s former top brass.

One photograph shows a guard appearing to sleep with his head in his hands next to an inmate who is not wearing handcuffs or any other restraints. The attorney said there was no other jail guard around.

Another video shows the attorney’s client holding a folder of paperwork about his case in a contact visitation room enclosed by glass, looking out at a different guard who also appears to be asleep. The guard is slumped back in the chair behind the desk on the other side of the glass. His head sways back as his chest swells on the inhale, and then sways back forward as he exhales.

The guards are the only ones who can unlock the visitation rooms.

The attorney said the defendant banged on the window several times to try to wake up the guard, but he never did. Nearly half an hour passed before another guard came by, noticed his colleague was asleep and woke him.

The attorney stressed even though the defendant was charged with murder, he has been nothing but respectful in previous interactions and the attorney was not concerned in that particular instance.

“If he’s banging on the window and the guy didn’t wake up, what else could someone else do without him waking up,” the attorney said.

Ohio Police Benevolent Association attorney Adam Chaloupka said it was unacceptable to sleep on the job. But he pointed out that the union has filed grievances accusing the department of violating overtime rules laid out in the collective bargaining contract.

Chaloupka said the department forces officers to work 16-hour days on consecutive days and more than twice a week, which he said is explicitly barred in the contract.

“If we had better staffing and if management adhered to the contract terms on how they should hit mandatory overtime, then the likelihood of this happening would decrease,” Chaloupka said.

He said corrections officers are human beings with lives outside of work, and the union will defend the guards if they face internal discipline over the images.

“The system is set up for them to fail,” Chaloupka said.


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