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St. Louis police told City Justice Center was too crowded to take in new arrestees

Officers were told to take new arrestees to the North Patrol division.

ST. LOUIS — St. Louis police officers were told the Justice Center downtown was too crowded to take in any new arrestees, so they must stop bringing them there "until further notice" Thursday, according to a document obtained by 5 On Your Side.

The City Justice Center was open and operating again as normal as of Friday afternoon. The facility was again taking new detainees.

On Thursday, officers were told to take any new arrestees to the North Patrol substation, according to the document sent department-wide from the prisoner processing deputy commander.

At about 4:30 p.m. Thursday, another memo went out department-wide, this time from Interim Chief Michael Sack. 

It instructed officers to release all non-domestic city ordinance violators on a summons, and required commanders to approve at-large warrant applications for all misdemeanor non-violent and non-domestic offenders. 

"Commanders should exercise discretion when weighing when someone should be held," according to Sack's memo.

Public Safety Department spokesman Monte Chambers sent a statement to 5 On Your Side, which read: 

"An investigation is being conducted at the Division of Corrections after staff were notified of a disturbance on a floor of the jail.

"As a precautionary measure, several arrestees were transported to the North Patrol holding cells. This precaution has no impact on an officer’s ability to make arrests. Officers continue to be proactive conducting routine patrols and a presence in the communities.

"This is an active investigation and will provide more information when available."

Then, at about 9 p.m. Thursday, the deputy commander of prisoner processing issued another email department-wide, which read: "The Justice Center is now open with Chief Sack's order still in place until further notice. Please make every effort to take arrestees to North Patrol first to be booked."

On Friday afternoon, another memo went out saying the Justice Center was open and all arrest procedures could return to normal.

The Justice Center has been a point of controversy since Mayor Tishaura Jones’ election.

She vowed to close the Medium Security Institution along Hall Street, known as the Workhouse. When it did, all of the city’s arrestees had to be consolidated under one roof at the City Justice Center downtown -- which was still in need of repairs, including working cell locks, following multiple riots.

Some of the riots gained national attention after inmates set fires, assaulted guards, broke windows and threw furniture out the windows. Inmates figured out how to compromise the locks on their cells to escape – a problem that had been building for years, according to the former Public Safety Director.

The six-story building has the capacity to hold 860 inmates, according to the city’s website.

The facility has been undergoing ongoing construction projects on a floor-by-floor basis to fix all of the vandalism from the riots as well as beef up security measures, recreation areas, and locks.

Jones' administration said the Medium Security Institution along Hall Street would be used as an overflow facility when needed.

As of Thursday, the city’s online population tracker showed 537 inmates were being housed there, with only one at the Medium Security Institution.

This is a breaking story, check back for updates.

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