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U.S. Marshals Will Investigate Inmate Deaths At Cuyahoga County Jail

Nick Castele
Cuyahoga County's Justice Center in downtown Cleveland.

A Cleveland judge is welcoming the announcement that U.S. Marshals will conduct an independent assessment of conditions at the Cuyahoga County jail after six inmates died in the last three months.

Cleveland Municipal Court Judge Michael Nelson says he’s encouraged that conditions at the jail are being evaluated. He announced last week he wouldn’t send any more non-violent offenders to the jail, given the recent deaths, instead ordering personal bond or court-supervised release.

“The last gentleman who died was in jail on a $1,500 bond,” Nelson says. “That doesn’t seem like a lot. But if you’re unemployed, that’s a lot of money.”

Allan Martin Gomez, 44, was charged with felony cocaine possession, but details about his death have not been released. Two other inmates hanged themselves, and the medical examiner found two other inmates had drugs in their systems when they died.

Nelson says he had asked the Court of Common Pleas to look into reforming its bail bond system in 2016.

“Since that time, they’ve established a committee. They established another committee. And now they have a subcommittee studying the results of those previous committees,” Nelson says. “We, in our county, have to have the will to embrace bail bond reform.”

Nelson also says he won’t be comfortable sending non-violent offenders to the county jail until staffing levels are increased.