Civil rights watchdogs needed for Ohio jails

What a difference a year makes.

In 2017, an Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction report found few problems at the Cuyahoga County jail. A year later, U.S. marshals termed conditions there “inhumane.” In 2018, eight inmates died at the jail. There are now FBI investigations, lawsuits, and even criminal charges against several corrections officers — including felonious assault, unlawful restraint and interfering with civil rights.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has ordered the state staff for inspecting county jails be doubled. He also wants them to conduct unannounced inspections. In this case, however, DeWine has ordered the Ohio Bureau of Adult Detention to conduct regular compliance monitoring at Cuyahoga County Corrections Center at the least every 30 days.

Good. County jails are not supposed to be resorts. But there are guarantees against cruel and unusual punishment, and inmates — and their families — are entitled to expect they will be safe.

DeWine has called it an issue “bigger than the Cuyahoga County Jail,” and his administration should not hesitate to shut down any that fail to pass that modest test.