Gov. Mike DeWine wants to more than double the size of the Ohio Bureau of Adult Detention to improve the state’s inspection system after criminal investigations were launched to look into the deaths of several Cuyahoga County Corrections Center inmates.
JoEllen Smith, a spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, told The Center Square that the expansion will cost Ohio a little bit more than $1 million in annual salaries to fill the vacancies. The bureau will be expanded from 6 members to 15.
“Those with the Ohio Bureau of Adult Detention have worked hard with limited resources to annually inspect local jails, but their examinations haven’t been as comprehensive as I believe they should be,” DeWine said in a news release. “It’s time that this division has the tools to effectively carry out its statutory obligations.”
The additional employees will allow Ohio to inspect each of the state’s 300 jails on its compliance with both essential and minimum standards annually. Currently, the bureau inspects only essential standards annually and other minimum standards are inspected on a rotating schedule every two years.
In its 2018 inspections, the bureau found that 44 of the state’s 88 full-service jails were not complying with all standards. Inspections found that the Cuyahoga County Corrections Center complied with only about one-third of the state’s 135 standards. DeWine ordered compliance monitoring at this jail every 30 days.
DeWine included several other reforms to improve transparency and accountability. To promote transparency, he requested the bureau expand its circulation of annual reports to the county and municipal administrative judges and the county prosecutor. DeWine also requested standardized grand jury reports on the conditions of county jails, unannounced inspections and mandatory reporting of critical incidents, such as inmate deaths.
Jocelyn Rosnick, the advocacy director of the Ohio ACLU, told the Center Square that the additional accountability will be helpful, but that it is not sufficient.
“We’re heartened to see Gov. DeWine’s plan to increase transparency, accountability, and oversight of local jails,” Rosnick said. “However, the problems we’ve seen in Cuyahoga County, while extreme examples, did not happen overnight or in a vacuum. Much more needs to be done for statewide oversight of Ohio’s jails.”
“Full jail inspection reports posted to the ODRC website and made viewable to the public, along with information on who is in our jails, whether they are being held pretrial, due to a transfer or serving time, on what charges, how long they are in, demographic information, etc,” Rosnick said. “Without robust access to data, reform measures will never be as successful as they can and should be. Additionally, transparency and oversight are laudable goals; however, we must also examine how to reduce our overcrowded prison and jail populations. Too many people languish in cages who would be better served in their community.”
After this month’s reinspection, Cuyahoga’s jail improved and is now compliant with about half of the standards. If the jail does not continue to improve, the governor may consider further legal action.