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Government & Politics

Cuyahoga County Jail is Bringing in National Guard to Replace Sick Staff

Cuyahoga County is accepting Gov. Mike DeWine’s offer of National Guard troops to provide security support at county jails.

DeWine made the offer in response to “the significant number of COVID-19 infections amongst state, county, and local corrections officers that has reduced staffing levels required to maintain safe and adequate security at some facilities,” according to a press release.

The county and DeWine’s announcements came on the same day the head of Ohio’s prison department, Annette Chambers-Smith, made the case for including prison inmates and staff in the second round of coronavirus vaccines.

“I definitely will be advocating for [the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction] to be a part of that mix," Chambers-Smith said Friday. "We’re obviously a congregate setting. We obviously have people that have died. Congregate settings are just more vulnerable.”

COVID-19 has claimed the lives of 109 Ohio prisoners, along with those of seven state corrections department staff members.

Of the 1,300 inmates currently at the Cuyahoga County Jail, 237 of them have tested positive for the coronavirus. According to the county, 43 officers at the jail are currently out sick with the coronavirus, up from an average of 8 to 10 a day since the beginning of the pandemic.

Cuyahoga County’s chief of public safety, Bob Coury, said infections among corrections officers at the jail are causing serious staffing challenges.

“As a result, we welcome the National Guard’s help in order to protect, to keep our inmates safe, and to be able to make sure we have as few lockdowns as possible,” Coury said.

Representatives from Ohio National Guard will visit the jail Sunday to determine how many troops are needed and what work they will do.

“The initial plan could be upwards of 50 National Guard [members],” Coury said. “And my understanding from our jail administrator is that we would welcome those 50 if we’re able to provide them to us.”
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