Woman Pepper Sprayed in Cuyahoga County Corrections Facility Files Lawsuit

A woman has filed a civil rights complaint against Cuyahoga County and Cuyahoga County Corrections Facility in Cleveland, Ohio after corrections officers reportedly restrained and pepper sprayed her in the face for asking to make a phone call.

The lawsuit was filed by Chantelle Glass and her attorneys from The Chandra Law Firm, LLC. In the lawsuit, Glass says that on July 16, 2018, she was booked into the county jail for an old misdemeanor traffic warrant. Glass, who is a mother of three, states that she repeatedly asked to make a phone call after she was booked into the jail, but corrections officers threatened that she would be restrained and pepper sprayed if she did not stop asking.

Despite their threats, Glass continued to ask for a phone call, the suit states. In videos provided by the law firm, corrections officers Robert Marsh and Sergeant. Idris-Farid Clark can be seen tying Glass to a restraint chair. Clark also appears to shake a can of pepper spray before Glass is brought into the room.

The video shows that the mother complied with the officers while being tied to the restraint chair, and, once the restraints were tied, Clark again began shaking the can of pepper spray. The complaint alleges that when Marsh reached in between Glass’s legs, she drew her knees together. This small action prompted Marsh to strike her in the head. The suit then claims that Clark maced Glass in the face and held her hair so she wouldn’t turn away. Two days after the incident, Glass was released from jail.

The lawsuit alleges the officers used excessive force and further files claims of First Amendment retaliation, assault, battery, and failure to train and supervise employees. The suit also accuses the other corrections officers in the room during the incident of not taking any steps to protect Glass.

In a press conference on July 10, 2019, Glass said when she was forced to sit in the restraint chair, she prayed that she would not die. "I do think about July 16, 2018 everyday," Glass said during the press conference. "What if I would have stopped breathing in their restraint chair? Why did they do this to me?"

In April 2019, Marsh and Clark were indicted after previously being suspended without pay in September, cleveland.com previously reported. Marsh was charged with misdemeanors including assault, interfering with civil rights, and unlawful restraint. Clark was also charged with felonious assault, interfering with civil rights, and unlawful restraint, according to a statement from the law firm representing Glass.

The North Star reached out to Cuyahoga County for comment on the lawsuit but was told by a spokesperson from the county that they cannot comment on ongoing litigation.

In a statement, one of Glass’s attorneys, Ashlie Case Sletvold, said Glass wants to continue to make sure the officers and county officials are held accountable for the torture she endured while in the county jail. “It has been months since the United States Marshals Service issued its scathing report on conditions in the jail, including an ingrained culture of punitive violence against incarcerated citizens,” Sletvold said in a statement.

“Ms. Glass is one of the victims of that culture and she is determined to hold those responsible to account. No one deserves to be tied up and maced for asking to make a phone call.”

This is not the first time Cuyahoga County Jail has been criticized for its poor conditions and how the officers treat people incarcerated there. Eight people died inside the jail last year, and a ninth incarcerated person died there in May, cleveland.com previously reported. According to WKYC, the ninth death was ruled a suicide by the medical examiner. Seven incarcerated people filed a class action lawsuit against the jail back in December 2018 due to “inhumane conditions,” according to a statement from the law firm Friedman & Gilbert. “We are investigating these human rights violations and considering all options to force Cuyahoga County and jail administrators to take the necessary steps to immediately improve conditions in the jail, including through a federal Civil Rights lawsuit,” the statement from the law firm read. “It is clear that these deplorable conditions have been festering for years.”

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.