Instead, the sheriff’s office has fired one of the corrections officers who complained about the issue and has not agreed to recreate the reports the Dayton Daily News used in its analysis.
The claims date back to October, when a pair of local civil rights activists called on Sheriff Phil Plummer to resign because of racial discord in his department, including allegations that white female inmates were housed in nicer cells than black female inmates.
Plummer called the allegations outrageous and said the complaints are stemming from a small group of individuals within his department. The allegations that inmates were racially segregated in the jail was looked at by command staff and “they assured us this is not going on,” he said.
Classification is done by type of crime, violence, age, mental illness, history and other factors, he said.
“Classification isn’t done by race,” Plummer said. “It’s done by all those variables.”
The allegations of inmate segregation came from a corrections officer named Russell Johnson. Johnson contacted the Dayton Daily News after he says the sheriff didn’t take his claims seriously.
“No one is trying to fix it. They’re trying to cover it,” Johnson said last week.
Johnson presented records in October that he said bolster his claim.
The records are below, with his hand-written notes on the first page.
These records appear to show smaller cells (starting with the letter “E” or “S”) have a higher percentage black population than the larger cells N21 and W21. The larger cells are open-space dorms, while the smaller ones give inmates far less space and privacy.
These smaller cells are one of the reasons the jail’s annual inspection lists it as having nearly twice as many inmates as the state’s “recommended housing capacity” based on square footage per inmate.
Here’s the state’s most recent inspection:
To confirm Russell’s allegations, the Dayton Daily News put in a request under Ohio’s public records laws for records illustrating the racial breakdown and housing of inmates at the jail from Oct. 1 through Oct. 12.
The sheriff’s office promptly responded with a report.
Read that report here (more than 500 pages total, so only Oct. 1 is scanned here):
Reporters analyzed this data and found that more than three-quarters of the 573 stays by black female inmates in the Montgomery County Jail from Oct. 1-12 were in the 14 older, smaller cells.
This information was shared with the sheriff’s office, which was asked for an explanation. Maj. Matt Haines, who commands the jail, responded with an email saying the sheriff’s office “has an open internal investigation into the allegation of improperly classifying inmates” that he has requested be “expedited.”
The Dayton Daily News responded saying it would publish the information that it had assembled, but would also publish the outcomes of the sheriff’s office’s internal investigation when it was complete.
The sheriff’s office has responded to repeated requests for the outcome of that investigation by saying it is ongoing. They have not released records showing when the probe began or what it has involved.
But the sheriff’s office did conclude an investigation into one of the corrections officers quoted in the Dayton Daily News story as critical of how female inmates are housed.
A February 2017 internal investigation ordered by jail command staff found Jerrid Campbell violated department policy by speaking to the media. “This information was used to portray an impression of unfair or improper treatment of inmates based upon racial criteria,” a report of that investigation says.
“The figures and conditions described by Officer Campbell are his opinion and not a fair and accurate description of the jail operation,” it says. “The quotes attributed to Officer Campbell portray that housing and other internal operational decisions are based on the race of inmates as the primary factor, which is factually incorrect.”
Here’s the full report:
Campbell was terminated in May. His termination letter says this followed an investigation into him submitting “a handwritten complaint alleging various racist slurs against Sheriff Plummer and the Sheriff’s command staff.”
“Campbell accused Sheriff Plummer of being a ‘racist,’ racist liar,’ and accused Sheriff Plummer of running a ‘white supremacy agency,’ without any supporting factual evidence,” his termination letter says.
Campbell was also named in a lawsuit against the sheriff’s office alleging excessive force against an inmate. Campbell was suspended without pay for 10 days because of the incident.
Several internal investigations were cited in his termination.
Here is his termination letter:
The sheriff’s office says it still hasn’t completed its review of the allegations of inmate segregation.
The Dayton Daily News in June requested the same records it received in October, but for the month of May, to see if there was any change in the numbers.
The Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office denied the request via certified letter, saying they had no easy way to produce a report showing how inmates are segregated by race at the jail and were not required to produce the same report as before.
Here’s their response:
The newspaper responded with communications from its attorney, arguing the records are public. In August, the sheriff’s office finally provided records showing the racial breakdown of inmates by area of the jail, but not by gender or cell.
Here are the records the department provided:
Last week, the Dayton Daily News responded with a revised request asking for the same type of records Johnson provided in October.
Here is our most recent request:
This story will be updated with the sheriff’s office response, and with any outcome of the department’s expedited review of the allegations.
Josh Sweigart is an investigative reporter at the Dayton Daily News. His stories have focused on government waste, fraud, abuse and accountability in southwest Ohio, as well as the statehouse and U.S. Capitol.