Advocates demand firing of woman in charge of CJC

First Alert 4's Lauren Trager is tracking renewed calls for change at the St. Louis City Justice Center.
Published: Sep. 25, 2023 at 5:18 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - Advocates are demanding the firing of the woman in charge of the St. Louis City Justice Center after family members of inmates who have died inside told First Alert 4 they aren’t getting answers.

Outside the city’s only open jail on Monday, advocates called for it to close immediately. Problems have plagued the city jail. A guard was held hostage there last month. The city is being sued over its use of pepper spray on detainees. The oversight board tasked with investigating the jail claims they are being kept out.

“We need to figure out what’s really going on inside. What are they hiding?” asked Jasmine Smith.

Jasmine Smith is the daughter of Terrence Smith, one of nine detainees who have died in the last year.

“We just talked to our father on August 18 on his birthday,” Smith said. He had previously suffered a fall, leaving him with serious injuries, but he’d been returned to the jail after a hospital stay. Smith said their family cannot get his medical records from the city.

“So please just let us know what we need to do to make things right for all these families that are trying to find answers and justice for the family that died up in the Justice Center,” Smith said.

“Don’t take our word for it. Take their word, and they’re here and they’re making their voices heard, and we need to listen,” said Sarah Dixson.

Organizers make no qualms – they want to close jails altogether.

“Our organizations believe that jails, prisons, and police will not get us safety,” said Tracy Stauton.

But in the short term, they want Jail Commissioner Jennifer Clemmons-Abullah fired, sending a clear message to City Hall and the Mayor’s Office, not lost on them, that it’s just across the street.

“It’s not lost; it’s aggravating. It’s irritating. It’s disheartening,” said Stauton.

“The City will not close CJC. Despite the challenges she inherited after accepting her current role under the Department of Public Safety, Commissioner Clemons-Abdullah has worked to improve the operations and culture of the City’s Corrections division. In just under two years, she has overseen the emptying of the Workhouse; managed more than $18 million in facility safety upgrades, including fixing locks; improved the quality and variety of detainees’ meals; expanded educational programming; and more,” The St. Louis City Public Safety Office told First Alert 4.