Former Director Convicted of Running 'Inhumane' Ohio Jail Sentenced to 9 Months There

The former director of a Cleveland jail was sentenced Friday to serve nine months in the prison he once managed, the Associated Press reported.

Prosecutors said that conditions in the county jail, described in a 2018 report as "inhumane," were unsanitary and left inmates with inedible food and little to no medical care as they were kept in their cells for 24 consecutive hours or more.

Kenneth Mills, 56, was convicted in September on misdemeanor charges of dereliction of duty and falsification, the former for causing unsafe conditions in the jail and the latter for lying to Cuyahoga County Council about blocking the hiring of needed jail nurses. He resigned in late 2018 after six inmates died in less than five months and shortly before the U.S. Marshals Service report was released, AP reported.

As Mills was handcuffed Friday in a Cleveland courtroom, Visiting Judge Patricia Cosgrove condemned his actions.

"What you've done is unthinkable and callous," Cosgrove told Mills. "I don't know how you can look at yourself in a mirror."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Demonstration at Cleveland Jail
The former director of a Cleveland jail was sentenced Friday to serve nine months in the prison he once managed, with prosecutors describing conditions that were unsanitary and left inmates with inedible food and little to no medical care. Above, Avery Martens waves to inmates as they bang on metal to acknowledge a protest outside the Cuyahoga County jail for the release of incarcerated people during the coronavirus pandemic on May 29, 2020, in Cleveland. Tony Dejak/AP Photo

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.

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 August 27, 2018, on a probation violation.

Reading from a 2019 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."

Former Ohio Jail Director Sentenced
The former director of a county jail in Cleveland, where authorities described once conditions as "inhumane," was sentenced to spend nine months there. Above, the Cuyahoga County Corrections Center. Tony Dejak/AP Photo