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Chairman of St. Louis jail task force steps down 2 days after being appointed

Mayor Lyda Krewson says retired Judge Michael Wolff wanted to work on long-term policy issues

ST. LOUIS — The chairman of the city's task force studying what led to a recent riot at the jail is stepping down two days after Mayor Lyda Krewson appointed him.

Krewson appointed retired Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Wolff to lead the task force she commissioned following Sunday's riot, where detainees lit fires, broke windows and threw furniture onto the sidewalk below. 

"He’s going to step back from that," Krewson said during a 2 p.m. presser. "He’s most interested working in long-term policy changes for criminal justice reform."

Wolff confirmed Krewson's statements in an interview with 5 On Your Side, and added the upcoming election also weighed into his decision.

"It seems to me like the locks and food are management issues, so I said, 'Let me just step back,'" he said. "The problem is, the administration we have now ends in 7 weeks.

"Voters will have criminal justice on the ballot because the different candidates have different views on that, and to get caught up in the politics of the moment, you do all this work, and the new administration comes in and has new ideas, I thought I'd sit back and wait."

Krewson added Wolff hopes the next mayor will see long-term policy issues as an urgent issue, but Krewson said policy issues take more time and short-term issues need to be addressed "urgently." 

Krewson has not yet named a replacement for Wolff. 

On Monday, Krewson said the task force will be independently reviewing current conditions inside the justice center and assessing any complaints or concerns. 

She said of Wolff: "First and foremost, I want to extend my gratitude to Judge Wolff for agreeing to chair this important task force. The City takes very seriously the health and safety of the individuals who the courts have determined need to be held pretrial. We believe that our Corrections Division is running a professional and capable operation under the leadership of Commissioner Dale Glass. We are aware of the concerns that have been raised in the community and the media and expect the task force to investigate.”

Other members of the corrections task force include:  

  •  Adolphus Pruitt, President, City of St. Louis NAACP 
  • Jamilah Nasheed, retired Missouri State Senator, 5th District
  • Alderman Joe Vaccaro, Chair, Board of Aldermen Public Safety Committee
  • Alderman Jeffrey Boyd, Vice-Chair, Board of Alderman Public Safety Committee
  • Dr. Pamela Walker, Public Health Executive
  • Rev. Charles Norris, Pastor, St. James AME Church
  • Brad Hompe, Criminal Justice Systems and Jail Operations Consultant
  • Rev. Darryl Gray, civil rights activist