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New St. Louis corrections commissioner eyes fix to city justice system

Jennifer Clemons-Abdullah said her work history makes her uniquely qualified but acknowledges the job comes with more than its fair share of challenges

ST. LOUIS — After 31 years working in the Federal Corrections System, Jennifer Clemons-Abdullah believes she's learned a thing or two that she can carry into her new job as the commissioner of corrections in St. Louis.

"The care and custody of the inmates, which are detainees in this case, are the same,” said Jennifer Clemons-Abdullah. “Fair, firm and be consistent."

However, she acknowledges the job comes with more than its fair share of challenges.

"Everything needs work,” said Clemons-Abdullah.

One big issue is the faulty lock system that has allowed detainees to escape from their cells multiple times.

"We've done somethings to reinforce the locks,” said Clemons-Abdullah. “However, nothing is ever 100%, so we're moving some of the detainees over to the annex to the new part to ensure everybody's safety."

Clemons-Abdullah has made it a point to make sure every lock is clear of the debris that has allowed the escapes in the past.

"It should be a daily occurrence,” said Clemons-Abdullah. “We started that recently where we're doing a curfew at 10 where we're going through and checking the locks and making sure everybody is safe."

As she works to fix the infrastructure, she said it's also important to change the culture on both sides of city corrections.

"I just want to implore to everybody that everybody is human first, and that's a right, so we want to treat everybody like humans,” said Clemons-Abdullah.

That's why she believes patience is part of the solution.

"It wasn't an overnight thing that occurred,” said Clemons-Abdullah.  “It's been a couple of years, so it's going to take a minute to fix."

The City of St. Louis is actively trying to recruit corrections officers.

If you’re interested in applying click here.