Editor’s note: An I-Team investigation found more than a dozen lawsuits against area jails claiming inmates were beaten, raped, medically neglected or killed in jail. In addition to possibly costing taxpayers dearly, advocates for inmates say these cases suggest a failure of the system to protect vulnerable people in public custody. Read our full investigation here.
As allegations against the Montgomery County Jail mount, including a request by the Montgomery County Commission to expand a federal investigation into possible civil rights abuses, the I-Team analyzed 15 lawsuits against five jails in the region to see how they compare.
Eight of the lawsuits were against Montgomery County, three against Warren County, two against Butler County, and one each against Clark and Greene counties.
The oldest is from 2012 and the most recent was filed just last week.
Two were recently settled, including one in Butler County that resulted in a $285,000 settlement.
The inmates who filed the lawsuits were mostly in for non-violent crimes. At least one ultimately faced no charges.
Law enforcement officials say jails are dangerous places where under-equipped officers are under constant threat and forced to deal with drug addicts and the mentally ill. Records analyzed by this newspaper show officers are bitten, spat on and attacked.
“If you get sued a couple times a year, that is relatively a clean slate because you deal with people that are incarcerated against their will and want to sometimes just get some money for being in jail,” said Robert Cornwell, executive director of the Buckeye State Sheriff’s Association.
But inmate advocates say these cases illustrate a failure of the system to protect vulnerable people in public custody. They say oversight of county jails is lacking.
RELATED: More oversight sought for area jails
Mike Brickner, policy director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, said while lawsuits against jailsultiple lawsuits that are all alleging excessive use of force, or racial profiling or denial of medical treatment, all of those can indicate there are deeper problems at that facility that need to be addressed.”
The lawsuits have the potential to cost taxpayers dearly. A lawsuit against Cuyahoga County was settled in 2010 for $4 million.