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Cuyahoga County Sheriff Looking For Solutions To Jail Understaffing

Cuyahoga County Executive
Cuyahoga County Sheriff Christopher Viland (right), with Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish, was confirmed as sheriff in March. He said Tuesday the county is seeking ways to retain more corrections officers.

Recent staffing shortages at the Cuyahoga County Jail have led to extended lockdowns and the use of National Guard members or other sheriff’s department officers to ensure adequate staffing.

When fully staffed, the jail should have 725 corrections officers, plus supervisory staff. Right now, the jail is understaffed by close to 100 officers.

Sheriff Christopher Viland, who oversees the county jail, said the county is working on making the job more attractive.

“The executive’s office and myself have had discussions with the corrections union and have offered pay increases and bonuses that were turned down by the union,” Viland told county council’s Public Safety Committee Tuesday.

Viland became sheriff in March. According to the union’s attorney, Adam Chaloupka, the raise was offered in February.

“I will give the county credit that they reached out to us and they tried to do something,” Chaloupka said.

The proposal was for an 88-cent per hour raise, only for new hires, and one-time bonuses for other officers, Chaloupka, said. But more than half of the jail’s union have reached the top end of the pay scale there, which occurs after six years on the job.

There were no pay raises offered for that group and a vote by union members is required to approve an increase.

“If those officers that worked there for years and years and years aren’t going to benefit from this, well, then the group is not going to entertain this,” Chaloupka said. “It has to be fair to everybody.”

He said negotiations with the county are closed unless the county comes back with a new offer. The corrections officers union’s current contract runs through the end of 2022.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Councilman Michael Gallagher said the county has to come up with creative ideas to keep corrections officers on the job.

“I’m hopeful there’s something we can do in those negotiations to help us out,” Gallagher said. “Providing maybe stipends or retention bonuses to keep new hires here and maybe, on a structured basis over a period of time, increase those bonuses.”

Gallagher added that, once the new jail is built, the county is expecting to need fewer corrections officers than in the current jail because of design features meant to increase security.

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