Brutal attack on St. Louis County corrections officer leads to calls for change

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CLAYTON, Mo. — A St. Louis County corrections officer was hospitalized with serious injuries after an attack inside the county jail in Clayton Wednesday afternoon. Inmate Carnell Robinson, 19, has been charged in the attack.

“She can speak, barely,” said Gary Willis, the victim’s father. “She’s getting words out slowly.”

By Thursday afternoon, the 29-year-old victim could only open her left eye. The right one remained swollen shut.

“She has bruising and swelling all to her face,” said the victim’s mother, Melba Willis.

Her parents told FOX 2 their daughter had expressed concerns about her safety before. They want immediate action to help keep other workers safe. The family also contacted their state representative, hoping she could help.

“Putting one corrections officer in a pod with 72 inmates is not safe,” said Rep. Kimberly Ann Collins (D – St. Louis).

The St. Louis County Justice Center has been the focus of attention for years, including a recent internal audit and an upcoming outside review that will examine all policies and procedures.

A St. Louis County spokesperson said the victim, in this case, pushed a help button, and help arrived within a minute. Another inmate intervened to prevent the injuries from being even more severe. The attack happened after an inmate was told his time for making a phone call had expired.

One county official said the inmate was jailed on multiple offenses and is awaiting trial for previous charges, including a homicide charge in St. Louis City.

Collins and the victim’s family believe immediate action is needed to keep workers safe.

“My daughter dedicated her service to the justice center, and I feel like they failed my daughter,” said Melba Willis.

The attack was recorded on video but is not being released because of the ongoing investigation. Clayton Police have submitted their report to the St. Louis County Prosecutor’s Office. More information is expected to be released Friday.

Collins called on all stakeholders to find ways to increase staffing. She’s calling on the county to examine the possibility of raising pay to help boost staffing.

A statement from Scott Anders, the acting director of Justice Services, was released Thursday:

“We are saddened by this attack on one of our corrections officers and will be working with law enforcement to help them in this assault case.

The resident has been segregated from the rest of the population and we are working to get him moved to another facility while he awaits trial on a series of serious charges in the county and city.

Corrections officers have a difficult job. We have been working to get them raises to help with retention and recruitment.

The safety of our officers is paramount. I met with the officer’s family today and we will be there to support them.”

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