St. Louis County Council to investigate Justice Center inmate deaths

CLAYTON, Mo. – The St. Louis County Council’s Justice, Health and Welfare Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on Tuesday, April 16 to begin looking into operations at the St. Louis County Justice Center, Councilman Ernie Trakas said Thursday.

Three deaths have already been reported at the center this year. Trakas said much of the hearing’s focus will be on the care for detainees with medical needs.

Tashanda Troupe is the mother of Lamar Catchings, who died at the St. Louis County Justice Center on March 1.

“I don’t know how he died, why he died, why he didn’t get any medical care,” she said.

Troupe pleaded before the St. Louis County Council on Tuesday for someone to help provide answers into why her son died. The hearing is a response to Troupe’s concerns.

“I don’t want this to happen to anyone else,” she said. “I don’t want another mother to feel like I feel right now.”

Troupe said he's pleased the council was willing to take a closer look. St. Louis County Councilwoman Lisa Clancy believes the first step will be to take a broad look at policies and procedures and to make sure the well-being of inmates is being addressed.

“Once we get into the investigation it might be that policies were followed but are those policies the best practices? There’s a lot we need to find out,” she said.

One of the inmates who died this year was John Shy.

Our news partners at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported a source indicated an internal investigation looked at whether a call button in the infirmary was intentionally disabled while Shy was in pain. A longtime friend of Shy’s joined Troupe during Tuesday’s council meeting calling for action.

“You never know when you’re going to find yourself in a situation and you might end up spending the night in jail,” said Angie Zorich, Shy’s friend. “I mean, you want to hope that you come out alive if it’s your son, if it’s your brother.”

The acting director of the Justice Center told council members this week that information regarding the deaths could not be released until investigations are completed.

“A number of us were not comfortable waiting anymore,” said Trakas. “So, we’re going to begin a general overview of practices at the Justice Center as it relates to the care of detainees.”

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