The former director of a county jail in Cleveland where federal authorities described conditions as “inhumane” was sentenced Friday to serve nine months in that same jail.
A Cuyahoga County sheriff’s deputy handcuffed Kenneth Mills in a Cleveland courtroom, as Visiting Judge Patricia Cosgrove chastized him while delivering the sentence.
“What you’ve done is unthinkable and callous,” Cosgrove told Mills. “I don’t know how you can look at yourself in a mirror.”
Conditions worsened during Mills’ four-year tenure, prosecutors said, with inmates living in unsanitary conditions with little or no medical care and inedible food while locked in their cells for periods for 24 hours or more.
Prosecutors said Mills fronted a money-making plan to have the jail in downtown Cleveland serve as a regional corrections facility that would charge suburbs and Cleveland to house their prisoners.
The regionalization plan led to severe overcrowding and forced corrections officers to work in intolerable conditions, prosecutors said.
Mills was convicted in September on misdemeanor counts of dereliction of duty for having caused unsafe conditions in the jail and falsification for having lied to Cuyahoga County Council when he said he had not blocked the hiring of badly needed jail nurses despite evidence to the contrary.
Mills resigned in late 2018 shortly before a U.S. Marshals Service report was released calling jail conditions inhumane and after six inmates died within a less than a five-month period.
Cosgrove denied a motion by Kevin Spellacy, one of Mills’ attorneys, to delay the sentence pending an appeal.
Spellacy cited letters written on Mills’ behalf before sentencing, and said the charges and conviction were “riddled with hypocrisy.”
Mills did not speak during the hearing.
Assistant Ohio Attorney General Matthew Meyer in a presentence report wrote that Mills’ tenure as jail director harmed prisoners and corrections officers.
“Mr. Mills’ conduct in this case was fundamentally his interest in his own care and ambitions,” Meyer said before sentencing. “Humans were ground up as grist. That was the county jail.”
Relatives of two prisoners who died at the jail gave statements. Meyer and another attorney read statements on behalf of other relatives.
Joseph Arquillo Jr. told the judge about the death of his father, Joseph Arquillo Sr., who was jailed on Aug. 27, 2018, on a probation violation.
Reading from a 2019 cleveland.com article, Arquillo Jr. described how his father later that day lay motionless on a mat for two hours before a corrections officer kicked the mat and walked away. Another corrections officer checked on Arquillo Sr. an hour later at the urging of another prisoner.
An autopsy showed Arquillo Sr. died of a drug overdose.
In court, his son said he has watched a surveillance video of his father dying over and over again.
“I see his clear and obvious pain that could have been prevented,” Arquillo’s son said.
Cosgrove said most jail prisoners are awaiting trial and thus innocent until proven guilty. She said they deserve clean water and sanitary conditions.
“We’re the United States of America,” Cosgrove said. “We’re not a Third World country. There’s no excuse to treat other human beings in this manner.”
The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.
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