ST. LOUIS – We’re seeing about one riot every other month at the St. Louis City Justice Center (CJC). The latest incident, which took place this past weekend, involved an inmate fight between more than a dozen detainees.
High-profile incidents at the CJC began with a riot in Feb. 2021. Detainees broke glass that separated the jail from the outside world. They had entered a safety zone meant for corrections officers.
Inmates did it again two months later, in April, on a different floor of the CJC. Both of those riots were during the previous administration. Corrections officers told FOX 2 in February that inmates were able to control their own cell doors with a simple trick.
Two of the officers described how detainees jam paper and other objects into the locking mechanism to keep the doors from latching closed.
Later in April 2021, newly-elected St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones delivered on a campaign promise to close the city’s other jail, the Medium Security Institution commonly known as The Workhouse.
This while authorities continued working on fixing faulty locks at the City Justice Center.
Now, two more outbreaks in the CJC—one this past weekend and another one at the end of July—have forced the city to transfer dozens of detainees back to a facility that’s supposed to be closed.
However, Interim Public Safety Director Dan Isom explained that there is a difference.
“I think what people commonly refer to the Workhouse is a portion that was built in the 60s. Those are the dormitory-style facilities where, you know, 60 or so people are placed into one dormitory with no separation.”
Isom said detainees are being transferred to an annex. He said it’s a portion that you cannot see from Hall Street, that was built in the 90s.
In the annex, there are pods with individual cells, which can have one or two detainees in each cell,” he said.
Isom added that they hope to speed up fixing the locks by completely emptying out one floor at a time of the CJC, so that workers can do the job uninterrupted. He also said the current problems at the facility have been exacerbated by 20 years of neglect.