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Class Action Lawsuit Seeks Federal Oversight Of Cuyahoga County Jail Reform

The Cleveland NAACP and two law firms, Friedman & Gilbert and Porter Wright Morris & Arthur filed a class action lawsuit Thursday against Cuyahoga County on behalf of inmates at the county jail. The lawsuit follows a US Marshals report detailing problems with the jail, calling conditions there “inhumane.”

This is the third time the county has faced legal action over its jails. In the lobby of the Justice Center in downtown Cleveland, attorney Terry Gilbert has been here before, joining a suit over the county jail in 1989. He says he was recently looking over his records and press clippings about that suit.

“It just seems that people don’t care in government what happens to people who are incarcerated, most of whom are pretrial detainees who have even yet to be convicted of any crimes,” said Gilbert.  

Joining Gilbert at the press conference was Leo Kesman, a former inmate and Marine veteran of Afghanistan. Kesman says he spent 90 days in the jail awaiting trial and was denied the mental health medication he needs.

“The conditions are so bad that inmates openly say, ‘I’m just going to plead out so they can send me to prison. I would rather spend time in prison than be here any longer,’” said Kesman. “That’s what’s happening.”  

The plaintiffs are asking for a federal monitor to oversee jail reforms. 

County spokesperson Mary Louise Madigan says officials have yet to review the lawsuit and do not normally comment on ongoing litigation.

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