Cuyahoga County Jail’s inhumane conditions led to the deaths of eight people
Last year, I watched a documentary on Kalief Browder, a young man who was arrested, sent to Riker’s Island because of an incredibly high bail that his family could not pay, and was subjected to torture and abuse perpetrated by both inmates and officers within the prison.
I was blown away by what had happened to this innocent child. How could “the free world’s” justice system lead to such inhumane, torturous, injustice? I had concluded that this was just an issue at one prison; surely it could not be a widespread issue. Then, I learned about the Cuyahoga County jail.
The jail, located in our own backyard, has engaged in similar practices as Riker’s. This includes unaddressed suicide, abuse, lack of medical care, and drug use. In fact, the previous director, Ken Mills, was recently found guilty of two counts of falsification and two counts of dereliction of duty.
Justice was delivered to him- at least, partly. Though he was found guilty of negligence to carry out his duty, which was to care for inmates at Cuyahoga County Jail, he was only sentenced to nine months. His failure to carry out his duty put human lives at risk and indirectly cause eight inmates’ deaths, yet he was only sentenced to less than a year in prison.
Thankfully, there is a coalition currently working to improve these conditions. The Cuyahoga County Jail Coalition is “building a powerful, community-based campaign to demand justice and accountability. This includes working groups on bail reform, outreach and connection with folks currently incarcerated, creative actions, a set of collaboratively-drafted demands, coalition meetings, and more.” They have even created a list of demands, which can be seen on their website.
Our society needs to care more about prisoners. They are human beings who have made mistakes- some more dire than others- but they are not lost causes, and they are most definitely not animals who deserve to be kept in cages for the rest of their lives without any recourse or basic human necessities. While I am not saying that prisoners don’t deserve to be put in prison, I am saying that prisons should not be death sentences.
Criminals deserve to be punished, but we should take care to ensure that they are given the ability to move on from their past, not to forever be relinquished to a system that slowly kills them.