CLEVELAND — Cuyahoga County Director of Communications Mary Louise Madigan confirms to WKYC that an inmate has died at the Cuyahoga County Jail.
According to Madigan, a 36-year-old Nicholas Colbert of Maple Heights was arrested Wednesday on a drug possession charge and was found unresponsive in the veterans pod of the jail just before 2:30 p.m. Friday. EMS crews arrived 10 minutes later and transported him to MetroHealth Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead just after 3 p.m.
Colbert's cause of death is currently under investigation. Officials say all protocols were followed and the inmate was given a medical evaluation and asked a series questions before being placed in the general jail population. There were reportedly no issues prior to Friday's incident, and he had been moved to the veterans pod on Thursday.
This is the ninth inmate to die at the Cuyahoga County Jail since the start of 2018. The facility has since found itself at the center of a massive scandal involving alleged corruption and mistreatment of inmates. A scathing report from the U.S. Marshals service was followed by a failed state inspection, and numerous lawsuits have been filed accusing operators of denying inmates medical assistance, forcing inmates to sleep on the floor, and even serving food with bugs in it.
"You almost can't believe that they let someone else die in their custody," says Civil Rights Lawyer, Paul J.Cristallo, who represents an inmate who was assaulted as well as families of two men who died in the jail. "Anytime there's an inmate in a facility like the county jail, the county has a legal responsibility for the caring and well-being of these individuals."
Chairman of Cuyahoga County Council's Public Safety & Justice Affairs Committee, Michael Gallagher, released a statement to WKYC:
"I have read the report and was notified of the death. The council has and will continue to prioritize our county jail. Since the initial deaths we, the council, have focused our energy on not only the medical care in the jail but the training and hiring of new leadership and staff. We are near full employment on the CO side of things. Metro Health will be taking over fully in October, a new food service will will be introduced soon and our new Director will start in Two weeks. I am saddened by this tragedy and await the full report on the circumstances involved."
In addition, multiple county corrections employees have been indicted on charges that include excessive force, falsifying records, and tampering with evidence. Those involved have thus far pleaded not guilty.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has pledged a review of the state's inspection process after the issues with the jail seemingly went uncorrected for so long. Cuyahoga County also reached a deal with MetroHealth to expand healthcare inside the jail system.