Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court Division

One of Cleveland's
Most Dangerous Places

Mismanagement Places Detention Center in State of Crisis.

After stripping court employees of their union representation, the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court & Detention Center has become a dangerous environment in which riots occur, gangs aggressively recruit, and both juvenile residents and staff face a constant threat of violence.

Why One of Cleveland’s Most Dangerous Places?

Whether detained there as a youth, or working there as staff, the numbers are clear why persons should be concerned for their safety.

611 Incidents of Violence in 18 Months

Between January 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021, the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Detention Center experienced 611 Incidents of Violence (averaging 34 incidents of violence on a monthly basis).

According to the Court’s own administrative judge, these violent incidents included:

  • 140 Fights
  • 130 Threats to Staff
  • 117 Youth on Youth Assaults
  • 64 Threats to Residents
  • 52 Group Disturbances
  • 42 Staff Assaults
  • 24 Contraband Incidents
  • 18 Security Threats
  • 13 Incidents of Property Destruction
  • 11 Attempted Escapes
Nearly 70% of all incidents at the detention center were characterized as incidents of violence.

80% Increase of Staff Assaults in 2021

Last year, the Juvenile Court & Detention Center saw a dramatice year-over-year increase in violence directed at staff. In the first six months of 2021 alone, instances of youth assaults on staff increased 80%, with nearly half of those assaults resulting in injury to staff.

Absolute havoc: Another riot breaks out at Cuyahoga County Juvenile Detention Center

The FOX 8 I-Team has uncovered exclusive video of yet another riot breaking out inside the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Detention Center. Security video shows, in the new case, a teacher walk through a door into a room and young inmates follow. Then, violence explodes.

Video of chaos erupting as teen inmates go wild inside Cuyahoga County Juvenile Detention Center.

Obtained by Cleveland’s FOX8 I-Team, this video shows teens going wild. It’s just the latest outbreak of violence inside the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Detention Center, showing the chaos as teens go on the attack. Watch as young inmates rush in and jump other youth offenders.

Whether a staff member or a juvenile resident, who could feel safe here?

Court Administration Has Itself To Blame...

After stripping employees of their contractually secured rights such as seniority rights, scheduling preferences, safety training and more, Administrative Judge Thomas O’Malley has found himself in what he calls a “critical staffing deficit” at the Court’s juvenile detention center that “has the potential for catastrophe.” Laborers Local 860 previously brought the staffing concerns to the court prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the court chose not to listen to the voice of its workers and their representatives. 

Leaves Workers at the Bargaining Table

In the midst of ongoing contract negotiations, the Court’s judges voted to strip roughly 135 employees of representation & contractually secured rights.

Ignores Mandatory Training Requirements

Court administration ignored the essential training of court workers in areas such as workplace safety and CPR despite the union requirements.

Pleads For A Staff Pay Increase

Court administrative judge pleaded for workers pay increase in 2021, despite the union having identified this need years earlier.

Places Juveniles in Isolation

Lack of adequate staffing causes an increased use of room confinement to ensure safety, despite the fact that this contributes to resident volatility.

“They are treating us like animals … we cannot come out of [our] rooms for we don’t know how long … We’re scared for our lives … We just want to see and hear our family again … Please help us.”

Posted to social media from a letter written by a youth inside the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Detention Center

Latest Updates on Problems at Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court

Investigation Ongoing After Detention Center Manager Fired

The FOX 8 I-Team has found a local detention center manager fired in the midst of an investigation into explicit photos on an electronic device at the juvenile lock-up. This comes to light after the I-Team found the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department is investigating photos of an “underage, unidentified female.” Records released by Cuyahoga County

Read More »

Forced Fights, Explicit Photos: More Detention Center Trouble

The FOX 8 I-Team has found a worker fired at the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Detention Center after being accused of staging fights between inmates. This comes after the I-Team has revealed multiple large outbreaks of violence there in recent months. Records provided by juvenile court show detention officer Trent Dunning was fired last month. His

Read More »

Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court Administration

Who is responsible for the dangerous mismanagement occuring at the Juvenile Justice Center?

judge thomas o'malley cuyahoga county juvenile court

Administrative Judge Thomas O'Malley Leaves Workers at the Bargaining Table and Then Proclaims a "Staffing Crisis."

Judge Thomas F. O’Malley is the Administrative Judge on the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court. As Administrative Judge, he walked away from the bargaining table with Cleveland’s Laborers Local 860 while they were fighting to improve working conditions and staffing in 2020.

In doing so, the court stripped its probation workers, detention staff as well as court support staff of contractually secured rights and privileges.

And to what end? Approximately 8 months after breaching contracts with worker representation, the judge asked county officials to raise the salaries of detention center officers, citing a staffing “crisis” at the juvenile lockup that could lead to a “catastrophe.”

Former County Administrator said that it was “an issue out of her control.”

“In a nutshell, I had no say in the decision regarding 860,” Former County Administrator Tess Neff* posted on social media in regards to the decision to strip employees of rights secured through Laborers Local 860. “I work for six judges and they unanimously voted. I don’t get a vote and I don’t have veto power.”

In a public forum, Neff stated, “I didn’t get a vote on it. It’s an issue that is absolutely out of my control.”

Neff left her position at the Juvenile Court at the end of 2021 for a Judgeship in Lakewood Municipal Court.

In The News: Danger at Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court

“Absolute havoc: Another riot breaks out at Juvenile Detention Center”

“Forced Fights, Explicit Photos: More Detention Center Trouble”

“Investigation Ongoing After Detention Center Manager Fired.”

“More chaos erupts as teen inmates go wild inside Cuyahoga County Juvenile Detention Center.”

“Worker held hostage during stand-off at Cuyahoga County Juvenile Detention Center.”

“Inmates Rampage in the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Detention Center Causing $20,000 in Damage.”

Ohio Voices Speak Out on Management Decisions at Juvenile Court

United States Senator Sherrod Brown

“I write to express my shock at the unilateral removal of the rights of your workers right to collective bargaining with the union of their choice, Laborers Local 860, and ask you to reconsider this decision. All workers have the right to collectively bargain in good faith, including the courtside and detention workers employed by Cuyahoga County.”

Ohio House Representatives Thomas Patton & Terrence Upchurch

“We are both concerned that this wanton disregard of an established labor agreement and the subsequent disruption of work is an indicator of other potential issues regarding court administration that must be examined. Our respective offices will be reviewing the court’s conduct in this union matter and on other issues we deem appropriate. ”

Courthouse Vendor Says "Everyday Is a Ticking Bomb"

“First and foremost, wellness and safety are in extreme danger. Everyday it a ticking time bomb with respect to the security of all who are in the locked facility. Your actions violate so many civil liberties that it’s criminal. It’s a shame that it will probably take a death of someone, for you to see the dire situation that exists.”

Attorney Leah Winsberg, Attorney With Children’s Law Center

“The youth in Cuyahoga County detention are enduring unimaginable stress. It’s little surprise, then, when we hear they’ve lost their cool, like the rampage in August when one boy attempted to hang himself from the ceiling and another attempted to harm himself.”


Cleveland's Laborers Local 860 Wants to Improve the Situation

The whole community benefits when the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court is adequately staffed, managed, and trained according to protocols and best practices.  Laborers Local 860 can do this on behalf of the courts, possessing vast experience in serving the public sector, law enforcement and the courts. Laborers Local 860, a landmark of the Cleveland labor force, truly cares about our city, and if allowed to step back in, can bring the manpower and support so desperately needed by a besieged court.

Yet the Juvenile Court won’t return to the bargaining table with Local 860 – despite Judge O’Malley stating in a letter, “When all factors are considered, it becomes readily apparent that the current staffing situation at the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Detention Center is in a state of crisis.” In the same letter, O’Malley wrote that in the last two years, officials hired 57 officers, but 56 others left during the same time frame. Recruitment cannot keep up with staff attrition in the detention facility.

It’s clear that there is a major problem at the Cuyahoga Community Juvenile Justice Center, and Cleveland’s Local 860 wants to be part of the solution. Laborers Local 860 has the experience at the Juvenile Court to:

  • Increase staffing levels to a point where room confinement is not seen as the solution for ensuring safety (half of all suicides of young people in juvenile facilities occur while young people are in room confinement*).
  • Improve staff-to-resident ratios.
  • Provide innovative scheduling systems to allow adequate staffing without resorting to constant overtime and overwork. 
  • Improve training opportunities to equip staff with the necessary skills for work in a youth facility.
  • Eliminate gaps in leadership and accountability for core operational issues between detention facility administrators and Juvenile Court staff.
  • Provide the court with the ability to supervise its youth residents in a safe and humane manner.
  • Provide the court with the ability to provide a safe work environment for its detention officers and staff.
* “Cuyahoga County Juvenile Justice Center Conditions Assessment Narrative Report,” The Center for Children’s Law & Policy.
cuyahoga county juvenile court staff
cuyahoga county juvenile court guard
cuyahoga county juvenile court detention officer

The dangers are clear. Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court needs to return to the bargaining table with Laborers Local 860 to review ways in which labor can serve as part of the solution to the court’s problems.


Tell Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court to protect its juvenile residents as well as its staff! Urge them to return to the bargaining table with Local 860 to work together on a solution to this crisis.

It’s time to stop juvenile residents & staff from facing a constant threat of violence.

laborers local 860 cuyahoga county

The union men and women working at the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court are proudly represented by Laborers Local #860 in Cleveland, Ohio.