County settles jail lawsuit but also faces new inmate claim

CLEVELAND (AP) — An Ohio county facing federal and state investigations and lawsuits over the treatment of inmates at its troubled jail in Cleveland agreed to settle one claim Thursday even as another one was filed.

Cuyahoga County agreed to pay Corrionne Lawrence, 25, $140,000 to settle a federal lawsuit claiming corrections officers beat him for no reason, allowed another inmate to attack him and threatened him for speaking to officials from the U.S. Marshals Service, which concluded in a November 2018 report that conditions in the jail were inhumane.

Lawrence's lawsuit also claimed corrections officers threatened to pepper spray and hang him to make his death look like a suicide.

The settlement has to be approved by the Cuyahoga County Council. A county spokeswoman on Friday declined to comment about the settlement or the new lawsuit.

Lawrence's attorney Ashlie Case Sletvold said in a statement that the county “has nurtured a culture of violence at the jail.”

“Corrections officers should not be doling out beat downs or threatening people for reporting abuse," she said.

The sister of Gregory Fox, 36, sued the county in federal court, claiming jail employees failed to provide him with mental health care and medication or take steps to prevent him from killing himself in his cell in August 2018. Fox told jail staff members about his mental illness and his previous suicide attempts, the lawsuit said.

Eight inmates, including Fox, died at the jail from June to December 2018. Four of the deaths were suicides. Another inmate killed himself in May.

The Marshals Service in November issued a report that said the grossly overcrowded jail was plagued by "inhumane" conditions, abusive behavior by corrections officers and unsanitary conditions, and concluded the lockup was unsafe for both inmates and staff members. Problems with medical and mental health care for inmates also were cited in the report.

Recent state inspections have noted improvements as overcrowding has eased.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Cleveland is conducting a civil rights investigation regarding the jail. A criminal investigation by the Ohio Attorney General's Office has resulted in 11 indictments and four convictions thus far, Cleveland.com reported.