ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) – The City of St. Louis set aside $13.5 million dollars to replace faulty locks and doors after an uprising February 6th at the St. Louis Justice Center, but the work had not been completed when detainees launched a second uprising Sunday night.
Mayor Lyda Krewson spoke about the incident Sunday night at a press conference.
"This is a very concerning, and dangerous situation, of course, not only for the detainees but for all of our personnel who work here," she said.
Videos from the scene show detainees breaking windows, throwing items out of the windows, and setting items on fire on the third floor of the building. The streets around the Justice Center were closed. According to commissioner of corrections, Dale Glass, detainees appear to have compromised cell locks as they did during the previous unrest. He also said it's unclear which individuals participated because they covered the security cameras and he said he doesn't know how the detainees were able to start fires.
"I guess it's safe to say that detainees can be resourceful if they want to do something," he said. Glass said no employees were injured but three or four detainees suffered cuts from broken glass and were treated on site. Shortly after 10:30 p.m., more than an hour after the uprising began, sheriff's deputies entered the jail and the situation was seemingly more under control. However, a short time later, detainees began breaking windows again, this time on the other side of the justice center.
A large crowd began forming outside the justice center, many saying they are friends or family of inmates. The president of the board of public safety, Rich Bradly, said authorities knew detainees had found a way to compromise the locks on cell doors during the previous incident. He also said the next day the city started working on a plan to replace the faulty locks.
"Our current approach is to replace every lock on every door that is a problem in this facility," he said.
Bradly said the city has set aside $13.5 million dollars for the work, which includes replacing doors and other equipment. And he said it takes time to order it and install it but hopes to have the project completed by mid-May. Detainees have complained for decades about conditions inside St. Louis' jails, but when COVID-19 worries were added to the mix, the tension reached breaking point.
In the predawn hours of Feb. 6, 117 inmates at the downtown City Justice Center broke free from their cells. They smashed windows, set fires and tossed chairs, a filing cabinet and other items through the broken glass onto the street four stories below. A corrections officer was briefly hospitalized.
After the February event, the city formed a task force to find out what detainees' complaints were. Glass said that the corrections department had been working hard to address those concerns. Glass said visitation resumed last Monday and that tablets that could be used for video visits were being ordered and were expected to be in use by May 22nd.
Firefighters and police were called to the St. Louis City Justice Center after inmates were seen setting fires from inside the building.
He also said detainees were being given more recreation time, which had been curtailed by the COVID pandemic, and that authorities were working on plans to provide more programs for detainees.
Missouri State Rep. Rasheen Aldridge, who represents downtown St. Louis put out a statement in support of the detainees inside of the jail.
Here we are, less then a month since the last uprising and there have been no changes to right these significant wrongs. I look forward to working with the next administration to address the concerns of the detainees and to make the facility safe for all who are in it. pic.twitter.com/Z8VgzO7iB5— Rep Rasheen Aldridge. Jr (@RepSheenBean) April 5, 2021
St. Louis Mayoral Candidate Tishaura Jones also sounded off on Twitter about the incident. She wrote, "there is an immediate need for change in our city's justice system. Uprisings at our jails should not become the norm, and this is unacceptable." She also wrote, "We need to get serious about moving pre-trial detainees out of our jails, vaccinating our inmates, and creating a new culture of justice in Saint Louis."
There is an immediate need for change in our city’s justice system. Uprisings at our jails should not become the norm, and this is unacceptable.— Tishaura O. Jones (@tishaura) April 5, 2021
St. Louis Mayoral Candidate Cara Spencer released the following statement regarding the disturbance:
"Last night marks the 4th serious incident at the CJC in a matter of months. It’s clear that the city is failing to ensure the safety and security of those incarcerated in the city’s care and corrections officers in our incarceration facilities.
As mayor, I will launch a full investigation into the city’s two detention facilities to ensure that staff and the city residents incarcerated there are safe.
New leadership is needed in the post of Public Safety Director and I will make this an immediate priority.
I remain committed to closing the city’s other detention facility called the Workhouse. Recognizing this plan will obviously have to include competent and humane administration of the CJC as well, this will take a thoughtful and realistic plan - and I am prepared to lead this effort in an expedient manner while putting safety and well-being first.
Recognizing that those held at CJC are housed under the recommendations of Circuit Attorney Kim Gardener and the US attorney, I will work with her office, public defenders, judges and federal system. We must work through the backlog of cases to ensure that those at both city incarceration facilities move as quickly as possible, to put an end to cash bail for low level offenses and to house those necessary with the dignity and safety and that all human beings deserve."