Serial Season 3 Podcast: Cuyahoga County Jail in Cleveland

Serial Season 3

Serial Serial Season 3

In the final episode of Serial Season 3, Sarah Koenig discusses the second half of Josh’s case, when his sentence was changed to an adult’s. At about the middle of the podcast, Koenig tells her listeners to Google “Cuyahoga County Jail.” She emphasizes just how bad this particular jail is. Read more about the jail below.

“County jail sucks,” Koenig said on Serial. “Go Google it… see the headline? Cleveland judge, ‘I will not send people to jail after sixth inmate dies… County jail is not a place you want to stay even one extra day.” (Interestingly, Josh himself said it was more relaxing to be there than in juvenile, but adult prison was better than both because it was stricter and people got away with less.)

Cleveland.com on November 14 reported that the top Cuyahoga County Jail official resigned ahead of a U.S. Marshals report investigating those six inmate deaths. According to WKYC 3, four of the six deaths in four months were due to drugs or suicide, and the causes of the other two weren’t determined, WKYC 3 reported. The last of the six who died was Allan Martin Gomez, 44, who was arrested on a warrant and charged with felony cocaine possession. He had a $1,500 bond and needed $150 to be posted. He died four days after his arrest. The cause of his death wasn’t determined, AP reported.

Ken Mills resigned after all 34 Cuyahoga County Common Pleas judges said his jail was unsafe and inmates didn’t get proper medical care. (In fact, Serial mentions Josh not getting some of his medication while he was in the county jail.)

The FBI is also investigating possible civil rights violations connected to the jail, Cleveland.com reported. There have also been questions about overcrowding at the jail. Gary Brack, the former jail nursing supervisor, said the jail was dangerously understaffed and inmates weren’t getting proper medical treatment, WKYC 3 reported. He told WKYC, “Something is going to happen to an inmate with that staffing level.” Marcus Harris, who had been the jail’s nursing director, told WKYC that there were three nurses for 2,100 inmates.

Back in December 2016, Cleveland Scene reported that an inmate overdosed but survived. The drugs got into the jail through a sealed box of Fixodent from a visitor. Earlier that same year, the family of Robert Sharp sued the county and sheriff’s department because Sharp, 36, died of heroin overdose while an inmate at the jail. The lawsuit said the jail didn’t have adequate policies to mitigate the risk of overdosing.

Fox 8 reported on the jail and shared photos of it here. An inmate said he stayed in a holding section for a week and had to eat with his hands. He said he wasn’t allowed to shower and had bedbug bites. “I’ve been in prisons overseas. I mean, it was something on a third world country,” he said.


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