Among the inmate programs offered at the jail are: GED preparation and testing, substance-abuse treatment for expectant mothers, Alcoholics Anonymous, survivor skills and counseling, meditation instruction, daddy boot camp, parenting-and-childbirth classes for women, a program called Smarter Choices, a variety of spiritual and pastoral services and access to social workers to help inmates enroll in Medicaid and other programs.
In April, the county announced that it had transformed the former Bedford Heights jail into a center aimed at providing job training, substance-abuse counseling and culinary courses to inmates. Towards Employment, a nonprofit organization that provides job counseling and training services, would teach resume building and computer skills in the jail’s computer lab and give inmates emotional counseling and conflict resolution training. The Cuyahoga County Library System would offer GED courses, and plans were in the works for Cuyahoga Community College to teach manufacturing skills. The Bedford Heights facility could also allow the county to expand its culinary arts program, a nine-week course that gives inmates a certification to be a cook.
The center can house up to 200 male inmates sentenced to less than a year in jail for nonviolent, nonsexual, low-level felony and misdemeanor charges. However, as of this week, only 66 inmates are enrolled in programs at Bedford, county spokeswoman Mary Louise Madigan said.
The facility is fully staffed and ready to serve, she said. But to be eligible, inmates must have a record of good behavior at the downtown jail and they must be “medically compliant,” which means they are following doctor’s orders and taking their medication for mental-health issues and other diagnosed ailments. Only a handful of inmates have met those standards so far, Madigan said.
However, as noted above, the marshals probe found numerous issues with inmates’ access to health care, medical and mental-health appraisals and individually tailored plans for those with serious needs. Also, inmates placed in restrictive housing generally had not been receiving the care or medication they require to be “medically compliant.”
Madigan said the county is continuously working with the jail’s medical service provider, MetroHealth, to improve care at the jails and make sure inmates are stable and well enough to transfer to the Bedford facility.
For the past three years, Cuyahoga County offered similar re-entry services to a smaller number of inmates in the Euclid Jail. Officials had said in April that the facility would continue to offer those services to female inmates. That jail instead is being used to house about 20 federal inmates and low-level felons.
In August, Cuyahoga Community College launched a four-week pilot program at the downtown jail for nine inmates to earn certificates in the hospitality field, related to food handling, guest services, safety and tourism. In the third week, inmates were interviewed by hospitality partners, including the Hilton and Doubletree hotels and several high-end Cleveland restaurants, Madigan said.
The results of the pilot are under review before it is relaunched, a college spokesman said.
Space in all of these programs is limited. Our experts say that three days in jail is all it takes for an inmate to lose the job he or she might already have. And the vast majority of the thousands of inmates, who spend an average of 29 days at the jail, aren’t enrolled in the county’s re-entry assistance programs.