Detention Facilities Oversight Board responds to letter from Mayor Jones

Published: Sep. 11, 2023 at 10:29 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - Following multiple issues at the St. Louis City Justice Center over the last month, the Detention Facilities Oversight Board met Monday night to discuss the changes that needed to be made.

Reverend Darryl Gray, the chair of the Detention Facilities Oversight Board, said consistent roadblocks are preventing the group from doing its job of investigating detainee complaints.

“This is just another example of how this detention facility oversight continues to be treated with total disregard,” Reverend Gray said.

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This after two inmates died and detainees took a corrections officer hostage last month.

Board member Hillary Stuckey said she feels like the board was created to not be able to actually do anything.

“I’m kind of confused as to what our purpose is,” Stuckey said. “Everybody on this board is here for a purpose, and if we can’t even access that, what’s next?”

During Monday’s meeting, it was made clear complaints are being looked through and prioritized by urgency.

This year, there have been 30 complaints so far, but some of those are coming from loved ones on behalf of detainees.

Board member James Dahm is questioning if inmates are able to access the complaint forms themselves.

“From having previously worked there, the tablet access is incredibly restricted and difficult at times for people,” Dahm said.

In the past, oversight board members demanded the Commissioner of Corrections, Jennifer Clemons-Abdullah, to step down.

In a letter to the board late Friday, St. Louis City Mayor Tishaura Jones said she has full confidence in the commissioner. Mayor Jones said the commissioner has improved meals, fixed locks and expanded educational programs.

Mayor Jones added in her letter that for the board to perform investigations, 40 hours of training is required and falls in line with national standards.

Vice-chair Janis Mensah said it doesn’t matter what they do because something will always be in the way.

“Because the warden can stop us from doing investigations,” Mensah said. “She can stop us from going inside the facility to see things with our own eyes, and she can very clearly stop people under her care from telling us what is going on.”

On Aug. 31, Mensah was waiting in the CJC lobby, where SLMPD said Mensah refused to leave after being asked by staff.

SLMPD officers responded after being called by CJC employees, placing Mensah in handcuffs and removing them from the building.

SLMPD said officers advised Mensah they would be placed under arrest for trespassing and then was issued a citation.

Mensah said officers threw them to the ground, and they lost consciousness

“I came to with bruises around my wrists from the handcuffs, my hands numb, my head hurting, parts of my body hurting,” Mensah said.

There are a few things the oversight board wants moving forward.

One of those requests is to have an independent attorney so there is no conflict of interest with the city attorney.

The oversight board is also responding to Mayor Jones’ letter, asking to hear from the Commissioner of Corrections in person at an oversight board meeting within the next 30 days.