Raises for Cuyahoga County Juvenile Detention Center Officers Fall Short of Judge’s Request

A pay raise short — a staffing crisis too late.

When Cuyahoga Juvenile Court Administrative Judge Thomas O’Malley asked the county officials to match raises for Juvenile Detention Center employees so they’d be on the same pay scale as downtown correction officers, they responded with a pay hike that was a little over half as much.

It did little to alleviate the staffing crisis brewing at the Juvenile Detention Center.

On Sept. 13, 2021, The Plain Dealer reported:

“Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish’s administration on Monday offered to give 12 percent raises to juvenile detention center guards, far less than the 20 percent raises the county agreed to give corrections officers in its adult jail, according to records.

“Juvenile Court Administrative Judge Thomas O’Malley had asked the county to match the raises agreed to for the downtown corrections officers in an Aug. 24 letter to County Public Safety Chief Robert Courty. O’Malley’s letter also warned of an impending staffing crisis at the juvenile detention center.”

A staffing crisis brews violence that costs the community

The pay raise match requested by Judge O’Malley followed a riot that broke out in August at the Juvenile Detention Center that cost taxpayers $20,000. The riot stemmed from an extended lockdown due to a staffing shortage. Officers did not let the teens out for recreation time that day due to low staffing.

A lack of staff has been an ongoing problem at the facility.

The detention center has about 80 percent of the officers needed to properly run the facility, Judge O’Malley wrote in a letter to the county, The Plain Dealer reported. Children are often kept in isolation due to the understaffing. It is against the law in Ohio to lock down juvenile facilities without disciplinary infractions.

Understaffing has forced more officers to work overtime shifts, leading to burnout and ultimately more officers calling in sick, Judge O’Malley wrote.

The Plain Dealer quotes Judge O’Malley’s letter:

“‘The above-listed compensation requests are necessary to effectively address the needs of the youth within our care and to ensure the safe operation of the facility,’ Judge O’Malley wrote. ‘Attempts to continue the operation of the Detention Facility under the present staffing conditions has the potential for catastrophe, which introduces an unacceptable level of liability to the Juvenile Court and Cuyahoga County.’”

A sad but predictable crisis

The staffing crisis is a sad situation that has led to violence at the center, stressing staff and residents, as well as costing taxpayers money. But it’s also completely predictable.

It’s exactly what Laborers Local 860 organizers said would happen when county administrators abandoned their workers’ union at the bargaining table. In December 2020, the officials refused to consider raises that were less than what they eventually agreed to in September 2021. And even those raises were paltry compared to what Judge O’Malley said in his letter was needed to address the staffing shortage.

Our kids and the community deserve better.

The center needs adequate and well trained staffing to keep kids safe.

Sign the petition found at the bottom of our homepage. Tell the Court it needs better staffing and employee training to keep our kids safe.