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May 15, 2020

To:       Prosecutor Michael O’Malley, Administrative Judge Brendan Sheehan,

Chief Public Defender Mark Stanton, Dr. Julia Bruner, Dr. Akram Boutros

Sheriff David Shilling, Chief of Staff Bill Mason


We at Greater Cleveland Congregations commend you for the bold and swift actions you took in March to safely reduce the population at the Cuyahoga County Jail when it became clear that the coronavirus was going to be a threat. It has been said that time in prison should not be a death sentence. We believe that the cooperative leadership you displayed in reducing the population by half has saved lives and prevented the kind of unmitigated humanitarian disaster that is now occurring in our state prisons just south of here.

Led by the jail’s medical staff, you were able to identify those non-violent offenders at medical risk and release them.  The Court and Prosecutor’s Office were instrumental in reducing the flow of new people into the jail by creating Plea Days, in which low-level non-violent offenses are heard in a timely manner; this allows those accused to avoid spending unnecessary time in the jail merely waiting for their cases to be heard. Finally, the Sheriff’s decision to not accept low-level, non-violent offenders from the municipal courts was extremely helpful in reducing the overcrowding that would have resulted from the maintenance of current practices.

While we commend you for your actions, we also strongly urge you to continue with the above practices once the virus has abated.  We know there is a tendency to return to the status quo once crises have passed; we can’t allow that to happen. Our prophetic traditions demand our continued work to protect the vulnerable, the marginalized and those unable to speak for themselves. GCC stands ready to work with all of you to ensure that together we strive towards a more just and equitable criminal justice system.



Rabbi Josh Caruso                              Rev. John Lentz

Fairmount Temple                               Forest Hill Church     


Rev. Ronald Maxwell                         Dr. Louise McKinney

Affinity Baptist Church                       St. John AME


Rabbi Stephen Weiss

B’nai Jeshurun Congregation


Marcia Levine                                     Susan Reis

Fairmount Temple                               National Council of Jewish Women  


Gary Benjamin                                    Diana Woodbridge

Trinity Cathedral                                 Forest Hill Church


Donna Weinberger                              Keisha Krumm

GCC Criminal Justice Coordinator     GCC Executive Director & Lead Organizer


Khalilah Worley                                  Tom Nobbe

Senior Organizer                                 Administrative Organizer


Rev Jawanza Colvin                            Larry Heller

Olivet Institutional Baptist Church   Fairmount Temple


Abigail Weaver                                    Eileen McCully

Trinity Cathedral                                  Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Cleveland


Dara Elliott                                          Ethan Cohen   

Forest Hill Church                                B’nai Jeshurun Congregation


Stephen Wertheim                               Theresa Markowitz

B’nai Jeshurun Congregation              B’nai Jeshurun Congregation


Lee Markowitz                                      Ted Wilson

B’nai Jeshurun Congregation              St. Paul’s Episcopal Church   


Roger Williams                                      Laurie Albright

Fairmount Presbyterian Church          Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Cleveland                 


Michael Howard                                   Barbara Colston

Living Water Association, UCC           Olivet Institutional Baptist Church     


Peggy Isquick                                        Scott Lafferty

Fairmount Temple                                 Forest Hill Church


Jeff Smith                                              Ann Smith

Forest Hill Church                                Forest Hill Church


John Addison                                        David Biegel

Antioch Baptist Church                       Fairmount Temple


Rob Loftis                                              Sherry Brewer

Cleveland Friends Meeting                 Affinity Baptist Church          


Deby Auerbach-Brown                       Michelle Mait

B’nai Jeshurun Congregation             First Baptist Church   


Eileen Vizcaino                                   Mary Ann Breisch

Forest Hill Church                              Forest Hill Church


Jack Breisch                                        Sharon Nichols          

Forest Hill Church                              Dover UCC