Third Riot in Weeks at Troubled Jail
(MO) – The St. Louis City Justice Center does not have a good reputation. The jail was poorly designed and is consistently understaffed. City officials know that just as they knew that there were two prior disturbances in recent weeks. The riot that occurred in the early hours of Saturday morning was the worst so far. A hostile inmate got into an argument with the correction guard who was on duty. The argument then escalated to a physical confrontation. Once that happened, other inmates joined in on the assault of the corrections officer. The officer managed to get away, but the inmates were able to release other inmates and taking over more of the floor. In all, 117 inmates were involved in the riot and it took almost 7 hours for officers, supported by “sheriff’s deputies and police” to regain control.
Corrections Officer Injured During Riot at Unsafe Jail
The corrections officer who was assaulted by multiple inmates was taken to the hospital. There is no information on how severely he was injured other than articles saying he will live. According to NBC News,
“As jail employees were trying to get the corrections officer to safety, the inmates accessed a lock panel system and ‘other detainees were released from their cells into the unit.’”
That the inmates were able to get to and access the panel that controlled the locking system is only part of the problem. Officials have been well-aware for a long time that the locks on the cell doors can be jimmied. It’s unbelievable to think that the people who hold the city’s purse strings have known that this jail, which houses people who have committed “very serious offenses,” has locks on the cell doors that can be easily jimmied open and that they have done nothing about it. Perhaps it will take a lawsuit against the city, by the injured corrections officer to encourage them to fix the problem.
St. Louis’ City Justice Center Has a History of Problems
The riot on Saturday was the third and worst disturbance in the last few weeks. But the jail has had a history of problems. According to KSDK.com,
An inmate killed another inmate in 2008; Two inmates escaped in 2011; A guard was stabbed in 2014; Several inmates have also died there over the past few years.
Edwards points out some issues with the City Justice Center, including understaffing. Another is the locking system, as offenders were able to jimmy their way out.
I read the list of problems Judge Edwards says the jail has and while part of my mind is saying, yes, that’s bad, the other part was saying except for the locking system problem, the Bexar County Jail has a worse history. To be honest, I am surprised that, under the current administration, our jail hasn’t had a riot yet. I credit the officers, not the sheriff. Regardless, the risk for us is high.
Did Corrections Officers Make Situation Worse?
This jail is not safe for employees. Employees, like inmates, have a right to reasonable steps being taken to ensure their safety. That’s not what happened at the City Justice Center in St. Louis. Standards to ensure the safety of employees had not been met. Corrections officers would definitely know that, but it seems they may have aggravated the situation. Per a quote from RiverFrontTimes.com,
“Since the middle of December, we’ve been receiving emails and reports from families and people who are incarcerated about the constant mistreatment of inmates inside of the jail,” said Michael Milton, advocacy and policy manager for the Bail Project in Missouri. “From how they’ve handled COVID, from how they’ve handled even food and nutrition, [inmates] have had several different demands about the treatment inside of CJC.”
“Inmates and their families have told the Bail Project that officers have retaliated against detainees who raised concerns about other “visibly sick” inmates, even changing housing assignments to force them to share cells with the ill inmates in question, Milton said.”
If the claims are true then this is a very foolish thing for the corrections officers to have done. They know the inmates can get out of the cells. They know they are short-staffed which means there would be very little help if something went wrong. I’m not excusing what the inmates did, but I also don’t excuse mistreatment of inmates. We’re supposed to be a civilized society. When are we going to start acting like it?