A Cleveland judge on Tuesday promised to stop sending folks charged with non-violent crimes to jail, fearing it’s no longer safe after six inmates died at the county lock-up in a span of just four months.
Cleveland Municipal Judge Michael Nelson said he’ll no longer set bonds for suspects to sit in the Cuyahoga County Jail unless they’re accused of committing the worst crimes. Rather, Nelson said he’ll set personal bonds, allowing defendants who enter his courtroom to leave without posting bail.
“I’m giving personal bonds to everyone from now on unless they’re the worst of the worst until things get figured out at the jail,” he told Cleveland.com
The judge reached out to the newspaper after an inmate died Tuesday, saying the rash of recent deaths at the jail left him feeling “disturbed.” The inmate, identified as 44-year-old Allan Martiz Gomez, died four days after being booked on a warrant issued months ago for charges of fifth-degree cocaine possession.
His cause of death has yet to be determined.
Nelson said he now plans to contact the court’s administrative judge, Michelle Earley, to try and set up a meeting with jail officials to get to the bottom of what’s behind the recent string of inmate deaths. Earley later confirmed that the warden of the jail and the chief of public safety for Cuyahoga County had agreed to sit down with them.
Earley said she hoped the meeting would provide “a better understanding of what’s going on with the jail, what has happened in these situations and what plans the jail has/will implement to prevent further inmate deaths in the facility.”
Gomez, who was hospitalized Friday after his arraignment, was the sixth county inmate to die while in custody since June 22, Cleveland.com reported. Two inmates hanged themselves while two had drugs in their systems when they passed. A medical examiner hasn’t determined the cause of deaths for the fifth man who died in the county-run Euclid jail and county officials have remained mum about the circumstances surrounding Gomez’s death.
In an interview with FOX 8, Nelson said Gomez might still be alive if he’d been issued a personal bond with additional monitoring.
“Based on that monitoring, he may have been directed to a special program like Oriana House and gotten treatment while he waited for his case to be resolved,” Nelson told the station. “He would not be sitting in jail.”
He added: “This is not New York, Rikers Island. This Cuyahoga County, Cleveland, Ohio. It should not happen.”
In the past decade, no more than two Cuyahoga County Jail inmates have died within one year, according to medical records cited by Cleveland.com.
Watch more in the clip below.