2019 did not start much better. In January an inmate committed suicide in an area where a guard was monitoring two times the usual number of inmates.
The U.S. Marshall’s Service report called the Cuyahoga County jail “one of the worst” in the country and claimed that prisoners were being held in “inhumane” dangerous conditions.
The Marshall’s service report found that:
Medical care in the Cuyahoga County jail is inadequate, and answers regarding the deaths were “insufficient and inadequate”
Food is used as a form of punishment and inmates in Restrictive Housing do not receive an adequate number of calories
Inmates are not permitted to perform proper hygiene and are not allowed access to showers, telephones, and recreation opportunities
Inmates are not afforded appropriate privacy for showering and other personal hygiene activities
Juvenile detainees are housed with adult offenders and are subjected to many of the same shortcomings that affect adult offenders
The Cuyahoga County jail is not Prison Rape Elimination Act compliant, and 119 deficiencies identified in 2015 have not been corrected
Fire emergency drills are not being performed
The facility is over capacity
Meals are not properly stored or refrigerated
Inmates awaiting court are placed in cells that lack functioning toilets and running water, do not have a place to sit, and house up to 12 inmates in a cell designed for up to 2
Despite promises to improve jail conditions, inmates say that problems persist.
In a July 18, 2019 letter, John Adams, the supervisor in charge of Ohio’s jail inspections, said that the Cuyahoga County jail continues to provide inadequate medical care for inmates.
Families of people who were injured or killed while in custody of the Cuyahoga county jail have already filed several lawsuits seeking justice for their loved ones.
Legal Standards for Those Seeking Justice for Inmates Injured by a Lack of Medical Care
Inmates are constitutionally protected from “cruel and unusual punishment” under the 8th Amendment to the United States’ Constitution, and by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
To establish a case for an unconstitutional denial of medical care, an inmate must be able to show that the inmate had a “sufficiently serious” medical need such that even someone without medical training would recognize the need for a doctor’s attention, and that prison officials had a “culpable state of mind in denying medical care.” The prison official’s state of mind can be shown through “deliberate indifference” to the inmate’s medical need demonstrated by grossly inadequate medical care or a decision to take an easier but less effective course of treatment.
Proving a Case of Inmate Suicide Due to Inadequate Mental Healthcare
Inmates who suffer from mental illness are likewise entitled to appropriate mental health care while incarcerated.
Just as a prison can be held responsible for failing to provide adequate medical care, prisons can be held responsible for failing to adequately provide for the mental health of inmates in their custody.
To establish a claim for failure to provide adequate mental health care, an inmate must show that the prison displayed a deliberate indifference to a clear pattern of suicidal tendencies. Deliberate indifference may involve a failure to perform mental health and psychiatric examinations, or a failure to consider obvious risk factors when assessing the likelihood of inmate suicide.
Some prisons are run by the state, while others are operated by private, for-profit businesses.
Regardless of the entity managing the correctional facility, prisons and jails have a legal duty to provide reasonable protection for the safety and well-being of the inmates in their custody. If an inmate is injured or killed, whether because of a failure to provide adequate medical care or because the correctional did not provide adequate supervision of other inmates, the inmate has a right to seek compensation for their injuries.
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