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Teens escaped St. Louis County juvenile detention center through broken window

Staff at the St. Louis County facility are facing questions in an internal investigation.

CLAYTON, Mo. — Nearly 48 hours after two 17-year-olds escaped through a broken window in the rear side of the St. Louis County Juvenile Detention Center, police continued a multi-state search for their whereabouts Tuesday.

A spokesman for the Clayton Police Department said one of the escaped teens lives in the St. Louis region, while the other lives in Illinois. Officers notified their parents and local police departments in both of their hometowns.

"It mystifies me," St. Louis County Councilman Mark Harder said. "How did this happen? And how do we prevent it from happening again?"

Facility officials say there are some windows near open common areas, but none inside the individual living quarters where teens are held overnight.

5 On Your Side has learned staff are now facing questions in an internal investigation.

The County Council plans to press for answers in a newly scheduled hearing Friday morning during a Committee of the Whole.

"They need to explain what happened," Harder said. "We need to understand. Was there a lack of security?"

Pandemic-era labor shortages presented significant challenges for prisons and youth detention centers.

"The one thing we know industry-wide is that staffing is an issue," Kenya Brumfield Young says. She teaches Criminology at the St Louis University School of Social Work. 

"The work is hard," she said. "It's the work I come from. It's a challenge."

Many details about the teens' release and their identities remain unclear. Authorities only released vague details about their approximate weight, build, skin color, and other visible markings.

As police pursue the teens in Illinois and Missouri, privacy laws prevent them from enlisting help from the public like they would if an adult escaped from jail.

"There's confidentiality there legally," Brumfield Young explained. "Their charges cannot be released. Their names and identities cannot be released, because they are still within the juvenile system."

Police scoured surveillance video and searched Shaw Park Sunday night but came up empty.

"At that point, we would rely on those who know them and know their circumstances," she said.

Two days after the escape, the lack of information frustrated local officials.

"I was very concerned who these people were and what they were in for, because as you see, there's a lot of people that live very close to this jail," Harder said. "I was just worried that maybe they were violent offenders."

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