ST. LOUIS ( -- An inmate has been charged for beating a correctional officer at the St. Louis County jail on Wednesday morning, according to county officials.

The correctional officer, identified by family as Chrissy Nieto, 29, was in pod 4B in a security station monitoring inmates Wednesday around 10 a.m. St. Louis County officials said one inmate, Carnell Robinson, was on the phone and wouldn't comply with Nieto's orders. He then charged at Nieto, hitting her multiple times in the face and head with a closed fist.

Robinson, 19, was charged with first-degree assault on Friday. He could face 10 to 30 years in prison if convicted.

St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell spoke his support for correctional officers like Nieto. 

"Our office will not tolerate these types of acts committed against them," Bell said.

According to Scott Anders, acting director of the Department of Justice Services, Nieto was able to hit a panic button, signaling a need for backup from other officers. Anders estimates she was attacked for just under 60 seconds before a nearby lieutenant arrived.

According to charging documents, Robinson kept hitting the officer until another person intervened.

She was taken to a hospital for treatment. Her mother, Melba Willis, said it's a phone call she'll never forget.

"I was devastated," she said. "But they told me she had walked out on her own so I was thinking, okay maybe a few scratches here and there. But when I got to the hospital, I got worried."

A correctional officer at the St. Louis County jail was beaten by an inmate on Wednesday morning, according to county officials.

Willis said her daughter was originally taken to St. Mary's, but quickly diverted to St. Louis University Hospital due to the severity of her injuries.

"I saw how her face was so swollen and everything and she wasn't moving or anything...that's when I got really worried," she said.

Nieto remains hospitalized as doctors continue to monitor her. Willis said she's heavily sedated due to the pain. On Thursday, Nieto was able to open one of her eyes but the other remains swollen shut, her mom said. 

"They didn't see any broken bones, so that's good," Willis said. "But they want to monitor her because the vision she does have is blurry. We don't really know if there are any long-term effects yet."

Willis expressed hope Friday that her daughter would be released from the hospital later in the day.

Previously, Robinson was wanted for a burglary charge in Jefferson County in July of 2020. He was arrested by a member of an FBI task force in North St. Louis County a few days later and booked on a separate charge of armed robbery.   

Corrections officer beaten at St. Louis County jail

Willis said her daughter had been experiencing increasing anxiety and concern over the lack of staffing within the jail.

"When she would tell me some days and nights what she was going through I knew something was bound to happen, whether it happened to her or somebody else," her father, Gary Willis, said.

Anders said the jail currently has 78 open positions. Many correctional officers have been lost to higher-paying positions or other jobs offering sign-on bonuses, he said.

Recruitment efforts are helping to hire more staff, Anders said. In the next week, he said he plans to interview 50 applicants for open positions at the jail.

Because of the staffing shortage, Anders said the number of inmates allowed to be out in the pod at any given time has been reduced by 50 percent.

Still, the Willis family said their daughter was the only officer overseeing 47 men, with just pepper spray to protect herself.

"My daughter gave her all to her job, dedicated, came to work, and you guys failed her," Willis said. "No one was there to protect her. Another inmate pulled him off of her."

Anders said the alleged behavior is unacceptable and he visited Nieto and her family in the hospital on Thursday. 

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