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YOUNGSTOWN Sheriff disputes inmate's lawsuit



Published: Wed, May 30, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The sheriff said the inmate's allegations are ridiculous.

By BOB JACKSON

VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- An inmate's allegation of overcrowding and chronic double-bunking in the Mahoning County Jail is without merit, Sheriff Randall Wellington said.

Leland W. Scott, 48, of East Judson Avenue, filed a complaint against Wellington last week in U.S. District Court, Youngstown.

Jail records show Scott is serving sentences for unauthorized use of a motor vehicle and driving with a suspended license. He's due to be released Aug. 29.

The suit says jail officials have crammed 54 inmates into pods designed to hold only 36 people.

There are not enough places for all the inmates to sit, and the 18 extra inmates' bunks are less than 3 feet from the toilet, which is "unsavory and unsanitary," the suit says.

"I do not wish to smell someone else's waste," Scott said in the suit, which he wrote and filed himself. He has asked the court for permission to act as his own lawyer since he cannot afford to hire one.

What he asks: He's asking the court to force the county to stop double-bunking and impose a $1,000 fine for each day of noncompliance.

The crowded and unsanitary conditions have gone on at least since March, Scott says in the suit.

"That's absolutely ridiculous," Wellington said. He had not seen the suit, however, and declined to comment on it specifically.

He said jail officials do occasionally have to double-bunk inmates but only during times of peak population such as weekends. He said it's not done regularly and rarely happens at all.

An Akron law firm responsible for monitoring the jail's compliance with a federal consent decree recently visited the jail and gave it a "clean bill of health," Wellington said.

Neither of the Akron attorneys, Robert Armbruster and Thomas Kelley, could be reached to comment.

Federal lawsuit: Armbruster and Kelley filed a federal lawsuit in 1992 over substandard conditions at the old county jail on Boardman Street. That suit led to the federal court order that governs the jail's operation today.

The order permits the lawyers to monitor the jail from time to time and ensure that it's in compliance with the state's minimum standards.

Thomas Michaels, an assistant county prosecutor, agreed with Wellington that the suit has no merit and that if there was a problem, the lawyers would have seen and reported it. He said negotiations are under way with the lawyers and the federal court to have the consent decree terminated since the jail is in compliance with its requirements.

bjackson@vindy.com




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