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Jail Coalition response to arrests of COs

for sexual assaults of prisoners

A horrifying environment of systemic sexual abuse has plagued Cuyahoga County Jail for far too long

Cleveland, OH, July 22, 2021

The Cuyahoga County Jail Coalition joins a chorus of voices in condemning the recent spate of sexual violence at the County Jail. We demand accountability, training, care for community members victimized, and full future expediency and transparency in dealing with staff violence against community members incarcerated.

Back in November 2018, the U.S. Marshals deemed the Cuyahoga County Jail inhumane, citing poor conditions and civil rights issues, some of which resulted in several arrests and convictions. Yet since this report, there continue to be major problems within the county jail.

In the past month alone, three corrections officers -- whose salaries are paid by taxpayers -- have been arrested and charged with violent crimes against people incarcerated in the Cuyahoga County Jail. Collectively the charges of these officers include: rape, sexual battery and gross sexual imposition, kidnapping, assault, public indecency, interfering with civil rights, dereliction of duty, and intimidation of a crime victim.

This is a horrific assault on the dignity of our community. These officers have massive power and authority over the lives and bodies of those they guard. They are bound by legal duty to protect those incarcerated, yet are the perpetrators of heinous violence themselves.

This behavior should have stopped after the jail clean up in the wake of the Marshals’ investigation, but these violent patterns and practices still plague the system, including numerous documented physical assaults against our community members who are incarcerated. Furthermore, the Jail administration is continuing its attempts to hide wrongdoing and bureaucratic tactics of drawing out or generally evading accountability processes.

Nearly two years later, what has changed? Very little. The Cuyahoga County Corrections Center (CCCC) has once again made national news and solidified its status as one of the worst jails in the country.

Why has it taken two years for the facts of these heinous assaults to come to light, and two years for the corrections officers who perpetrated these crimes to resign?

Our elected officials insist on building a new jail which will cost county residents $500 million. If they cannot be trusted to control and operate the current jail, what should we expect with a new jail, for which they have no plan on how to finance? There is already systematic overcrowding and understaffing, but county executives say costs of a new jail will be partially offset by employing fewer staff! This will negatively impact the vulnerable people caged within the prison, especially those with underlying issues such as mental illness.

The Cuyahoga County Jail Coalition demands full transparency on sexual abuse in the jail on both past and future cases. We demand a minimum of 40 hours of annual training of jail staff on preventing sexual assault. We demand all these assault cases be brought before a grand jury and that all jail staff comply with any requests for information that would help bring officers to justice. We demand immediate, independent counseling for the survivors of sexual assaults in the jail.

These demands are among the minimum requirements needed to support the safety of Cuyahoga County’s incarcerated population. But our coalition sees the bigger picture of a systemic problem based on a legacy of white supremacy and bigotry, of exploitation of labor, marginalization of unemployed and low income people, and of maltreatment of people with addiction and other forms of mental illness.

The only real solution is abolition of the prison-industrial complex. That is the ultimate goal of our coalition.


On June 29, 2021 corrections officer Andre Bacsa was arrested and charged with sexually assaulting three detainees over 17 days and kidnapping a fourth. Bacsa was indicted on three counts of rape, four counts of sexual battery, five counts of kidnapping, one count of sexual imposition and one count of intimidation of a crime victim. He worked in the jail’s mental health unit and at least one of our community members who he assaulted suffers from a mental illness.

On July 7, a grand jury indicted former corrections officer Jalen Howard on two counts of rape, two counts of kidnapping, two counts of sexual battery, gross sexual imposition and public indecency. Howard is accused of sexually assaulting a detainee in March 2019. He reportedly resigned in August 2019 when the investigation began. Cuyahoga County officials have not explained why it took almost two years for the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and County Sheriff’s deputies to investigate the allegations and present the case to a grand jury.

On July 8, Reion Cook was charged with first-degree misdemeanor assault, interfering with civil rights and dereliction of duty. He is accused of attacking a handcuffed man being booked into the jail for a drunken-driving arrest. Cook is on paid leave pending the outcome of his case.

“The care and protection of our jail detainees is of paramount concern. It is never acceptable to violate people’s rights as an employee of the Sheriff’s Department, and we continue with our pledge to proactively ensure that our staff serves at a high standard and is held strictly accountable,” said Cuyahoga County Sheriff Christopher Viland in a statement issued following the first corrections officer’s arrest.

County residents have not heard from Viland since the arrest of the two additional corrections officers.

Little has changed since 2018

It does not appear that much has changed since the scathing November 2018 Quality Assurance Report by the U.S. Marshals Service. The 52-page assessment documented “inhumane conditions of confinement, which violate safe, secure, humane conditions and/or violate detainee/inmate Constitutional Rights.”

The overall facility operation was given a rating of “Unsatisfactory/At-Risk,” in part due to the County’s lack of compliance with the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA). According to the report, the jail underwent a voluntary pre-PREA Audit in 2015, which identified 119 deficiencies or non-compliance findings. During their evaluation, the Marshals Service reviewed documentation which showed that not one of the 119 deficiencies or findings identified in 2015 had been corrected.

The report also found that correctional officers do not receive annual training on the “supervision of offenders including training on sexual abuse and assault.” The County does not provide officers with the 40 hours of annual in-service training required by Federal Performance-Based Detention Standards (FPBDS). Instead, the County follows the Ohio Rehabilitation and Corrections Bureau of Adult Detention’s Minimum Adult Detention Standards which only require eight hours of annual training.

The presence safety conditions for those community members incarcerated, as well as the training, grievance policies and accountability processes that are supposed to ensure minimal harm to them, are horrifically out of line.

The County Sheriff’s website states: “The Cuyahoga County Corrections Center will provide a safe, humane and appropriately secure environment, with zero-tolerance of sexual abuse and sexual harassment for all inmates, by maintaining a program of prevention, detection, response, investigation and tracking. Any inmate that has been the victim of sexual abuse or sexual harassment will be monitored to prevent any further harm.”

Furthermore, the website says the Corrections Center collects “accurate, uniform data on every report of sexual abuse occurring in all county correctional facilities.” The data is used to complete the Department of Justice’s annual Survey of Sexual Victimization. The most recent survey posted is from 2016! The County has not posted surveys from 2017 to 2020.

It is apparent that the current jail administration is either incompetent or incapable of handling the day-to-day operations of the jail and the care and protection of incarcerated individuals inside the jail. What are the new sheriff and warden doing to address these issues? When was the last time the Grand Jury did an audit of the jail?

Who will hold them accountable? The sheriff? The mayor? The county executive? We the people must do what we can, and do it now: not one more.

The Jail Coalition calls out County Executive Armond Budish and County Council members Shontel Brown, Mike O’Malley, Bill Mason, Michelle Henry, Armond Budish, and Brandy Carney.

After being deemed “one of the worst in the country” it is imperative that the care and safety of incarcerated individuals become the primary focal point of our current elected officials, instead of building a new jail. We need care, not cages.


This statement is in solidarity with those community members who are incarcerated who have experienced violence, especially sexual violence, at the hands of the very officers who are charged with your care. We will do everything we can to hold the individuals and institutions responsible for this violence accountable, to make sure that you have justice and care, and to ensure more humane conditions for the future.

The Cuyahoga County Jail Coalition was established in 2018 after the deaths of 8 detainees. We are a coalition of 14+ grassroots, community-based organizations demanding justice for people impacted by the horrifying conditions in the Cuyahoga County Jail and the Criminal Justice system.

If you or someone you love has been impacted by sexual violence, there are resources available to help. The Cleveland Rape Crisis Center is available 24/7 by phone (216) 619-6192 or (440) 423-2020 or chat online.

Find out more at

 Cuyahoga County 

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