Low staffing at Cuyahoga County Juvenile Detention Center leads to $20,000 riot

Save pennies or teeth, your dentist says. In the long run, which approach will stretch a family budget?

Cuyahoga County administration officials face a similar decision when it comes to staffing at the juvenile detention center.

They pay workers poorly, which leads to a staffing crisis. Then a lack of trained staff at the center inevitably leads to a riot that costs the county over $20,000 in damages.

And who pays for this shortsightedness? Ultimately, it’s the kids who have to live in unsafe conditions in a climate ripe for violence. 

On Oct. 11, WKSU reported:

“Staffing shortages at the Cuyahoga County juvenile detention center led to housing conditions that resulted in a riot at the facility Saturday night.

“Documents released by Cuyahoga County juvenile court officials detailing the incident also suggest the facility failed to meet federal staffing guidelines.”

In three hours, juveniles damaged ceiling tiles, a soap dispensary, windows, a TV, and the fire sprinkler system — $20,000 in damages once the dust settled, according to The Plain Dealer

Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court – A Powder Keg Ready to Blow!

Under the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act, participating juvenile facilities are expected to maintain a ratio of one security staff for every 16 residents during overnight shifts. 

Ohio Administrative Code requires a ratio of one staff member for up to 25 juveniles during sleeping hours.

Technically, the facility followed state law. The ratio across all three houses of the center averaged 1 to 18, assuming all the staff listed in the court’s logs were security staff, WKSU noted.  

But during the overnight third shift in House 3 where the riot occurred, there was one staff member to monitor 30 residents.

That’s not exactly safe. Add this to the fact that the youth residents were under extreme stress from lockdowns caused by understaffing, and you’ve got a powder keg ready to blow.

“You could predict that kids are bound to have a response to that, a negative response, especially kids that have a history of trauma and mental health,” Leah Winsberg, an attorney with the advocacy group Children’s Law Center, told WKSU. 

Protect Cleveland’s kids

The riot is no surprise. Violence will escalate in a staffing crisis. What’s surprising is that Cuyahoga County officials continue to refuse to negotiate with the Union who can help solve it. 

It’s pretty simple. By paying staff decently, giving them the training they need and treating them fairly, county administrators can attract the people needed 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 protect our children.