The FBI is looking into possible civil rights violations in Cleveland’s Cuyahoga County jail, where six people have died this year over three months, reports Cleveland.com. Whether the inquiry was prompted by the deaths is unclear. Conditions at the jail, where the population exceeds capacity by hundreds of prisoners, are terrible, according to guards, former prisoners and other former and present jail employees. Guards are overwhelmed with the overcrowded pods, where inmates sleep on cots. The packed-in cells are locked down in what jail officials call “red-zoning” for most of the day, according to sources. A state inspection found guards failed to do the state-required medical screenings within 14 days. The jail also has been infested with bed bugs in recent years.
The deaths led to an outcry from Cleveland Municipal Judge Michael Nelson, a former president of the Cleveland NAACP, who said Wednesday that he would no longer send non-violent offenders to the jail over concern for their health and safety. The disclosure of the probe came the same day as Sheriff Clifford Pinkney announced that he wants to hire an independent expert to assess the jail’s operations. Of the six deaths deaths this year, two inmates hanged themselves, two had drugs in their system and two remain under investigation.