ST. LOUIS — For the second time in four days, inmates got out of their cells and caused a disturbance inside the City Justice Center downtown. Now, officials are temporarily moving some inmates out of the facility in hopes of preventing further problems, according to city officials.
The latest incident happened at about 7:30 p.m. Friday during a routine meal delivery. A spokesman with Mayor Tishaura Jones’ office confirmed 25 detainees in one of the units initially started the disturbance and others left their cells to join in. The spokesman did not elaborate on what took place during the disturbance.
Three corrections officers who were on duty in the unit at the time used OC spray – commonly known as pepper spray – to get the situation under control and inmates back in their cells.
No visible damage was seen from the outside of the building. City officials didn't say whether there was any damage inside the inmates' unit.
This is the fifth time in less than a year that inmates have let themselves out of their cells and caused a problem inside the downtown jail. The most recent incident was earlier this week.
Video obtained by 5 On Your Side of the Tuesday incident shows inmates gathering chairs and other items from a common area. Then, one inmate covers the surveillance camera with what appears to be a piece of cloth.
There is loud banging and yelling for about an hour.
What appears to be a jail employee pulls the cover off the camera, revealing papers, trash and other items scattered around the area. Jail employees then began the cleanup process.
Editor's note: 5 On Your Side has edited out most of the portion of the video that shows the covered camera for length purposes. You can view the video in the YouTube player below:
Mayor’s office spokesman Nick Dunne told 5 On Your Side in an email statement that given the two incidents this week, public safety officials have decided to temporarily move about 120 detainees to the City Justice Center annex building, which is on the campus of the Medium Security Institution – better known as The Workhouse.
Eighteen women and 100 men will be transferred over the next several days to pods on the campus, which is separate from the main Workhouse facility.
Dunne said the move will allow crews to more quickly work on fixing the locks and locking system.
“Our administration has inherited a faulty and easily manipulated locking system that has been documented for more than a decade,” Dunne wrote.
An internal city email obtained by 5 On Your Side may offer clues as to how inmates are manipulating the locks.
Email sent on July 30 by acting city corrections commissioner Jeffrey Carson
After giving several directives of security precautions over the past month and within the week and today for Officers and supervisors to check cell locks each shift daily, and for more supervisor and Captain's Presence in the units; I find that there are few staff door checks, no consistent supervisor presence, no consistent safety and security rounds, and checks routinely and daily each shift. There are locks tampering daily and too many inmates out at one time. Lock tampering rendering the cells Inoperable are not being reported nor doors checked.
I also am directing Major Harry to move the Captain's Office to the floors versus the quiet room in a non security area away from the staff they supervise. The Major's office shall be accessible for them to do other work. I am directing all supervisors and staff to do safety and security rounds, ensuring inmates are staying away from officer stations, and that staff and supervisors check doors, and ensure IJMS entries, write ups and caution codes of Offenders daily each shift several times and for cause.
- Very few inmates are receiving inmate orientation.
- More IJMS entries are needed with caution codes.
- Write ups need proper processing.
- Inmate Handbook needs updating.
- Inmates from the previous 4 disturbances were not written up, and there were no restitution orders, no police charges and NO CAUTION CODES!
- Also, there were no reviews of inmates locked down.
- CELL DOORS SHALL BE CLOSED ALL OF THE TIME AND NOT OPEN FOR TAMPERING AND CHECKED FOR PAPER AND TO ENSURE ITS CLOSED every time an inmate is let out or in. Before any other inmate is let out, all doors should be checked. This is basic security in jails.
TODAY A TEAM of STAFF WE FOUND:
- 4A has 41 cells, some double and some single beds. 22 of 41 cell locks were stuffed with paper and would not lock properly. 4 cell locks of the 41 are off line and in need of repair. 15 cell locks of the 41 cells were and are fully functional.
- 4B has 41 cells double and single beds. 34 of the 41 cell locks cell locks were stuffed with paper and would not lock properly. One (1) cell, of the 41 cells, was offline and in need of repair. 6 of the 41 cell locks were fully functional.
- 3A has 41 cells double and single beds. 5 cells of the 41 had paper in cell locks. 36 of the 41 cells were ok.
- 3B has 41 cells with double and single cells. 26 of the 41 cell locks had paper in locks. 15 of the 41 cell locks were ok.
As a result of the aforementioned, All Section heads i.e. Captains, Majors, Unit Managers, Tammy, Program Manager, Locksmith, maintenance, except for Kim Maloney's area of responsibility, will report directly to me pending a review of duties, performance, actions and communications. I also directed all Use of Force Paperwork to go to Major Harry and I. I will be reviewing this and other matters for accountability and responsibility.
Jeffrey Carson, CCE, Interim Commissioner
City of Saint Louis - Department of Public Safety
Division of Correction
New locks also malfunctioning
The I-Team reported July 19 the new locks the city is having installed on some of the cells were malfunctioning, too.
“We will continue to make the necessary upgrades to bring the locking systems back into operation, and this action will help expedite repairs,” Dunne said of the decision to temporarily move inmates out of the downtown jail.
Jones’ administration closed the city’s second jail, the Medium Security Institution, also known as the Workhouse, on July 1 saying detainees there were living in inhumane conditions.
The move consolidated hundreds of inmates in the downtown location despite the problems with the locks on the cells there.
Problems in the city's jails have been growing for months. A similar disturbance took place in December, but there was no exterior damage to the building.
Then, two riots followed in February and April in which detainees attacked a guard, broke windows, set fires, threw trash and other debris from the windows to the street below, essentially destroying a city employee’s car.