Monday, July 08, 2019

Letter to Councilperson Baker about the most recent suicide attempt at the jail

Councilperson Baker,

Another inmate has attempted suicide at the Cuyahoga County Jail and is now on life-support ( There is a chance that he will become the tenth death at the jail in little over a year. Last year 69 inmates attempted suicide last year, which is about triple the number that attempted suicide in 2016, according to (

The county has put itself in the horrific position of actually having an incentive to make staying in the jail as traumatic as possible. As in many places, most cases in Cuyahoga Cuyahoga county are decided by plea bargain. As one judge told Sarah Koenig of the Serial podcast, “plea bargaining isn't part of the criminal justice system, it is the criminal justice system” ( The prosecutor stacks on charges with the goal of inducing the suspect to plead guilty to a lesser charge. (One might say “coercing” the suspect to plead guilty.) Suspects are far more likely to accept this kind of bargain if they are stuck in a jail that is tormenting them psychologically.

A lot of factors are causing the spike in suicide attempts and deaths at the county jail. There is the practice of overcharging. There is the practice of asking for unreasonably high amounts of cash bail. And there is also just plain old corruption: Someone is making money smuggling drugs into the jail and selling them to addicts who overdose and are left to die on the floor by the guards. I’m certain you’ve seen the video of the death of Joseph Arquillo in the jail ( Maybe you should watch it again.

Cuyahoga County switched to a form of government that includes a county council, the goal was to stop exactly this sort of corruption. That means dealing with this is your job.

Rob Loftis   

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