Justice Center corrections officers say they lack critical safety gear

FOX Files

ST. LOUIS– Corrections officers recently talked to FOX2 to make a plea for what they say is critical safety gear needed to protect inmates and themselves.

One Corrections Officer (C.O.) told us, “It is complete anarchy going on at the Justice Center.”

He and another C.O. agreed to talk if we agreed to protect their identities.  Another officer said, “It’s a matter of time before an officer is killed it’s a matter of time before an inmate is killed.”

The two St. Louis corrections officers told us they don’t have the proper equipment to intervene.  They say they need protective gear like stab vests and body armor. We checked other jails and found both St. Louis County and St. Charles County have stab vests and body armor.

We asked St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones office if she would reconsider what the officers claim is a denial for safety gear.  A spokesperson wrote quote, “This administration will not reconsider the equipment request by the corrections officers.” He added, “The Mayor’s budget proposal for FY22 does not include that equipment.”

However the Mayor’s office added in a statement today – “The past six months have revealed systemic problems within the CJC (also known as the justice center), and we are actively implementing repairs and upgrades that prioritize the health, safety, and wellbeing of both detainees and staff.”

Corrections officers we talked to added that they don’t have enough staff.  Starting pay is only $16 an hour for watching up to 65 detainees at one time. Officers say new recruits don’t last long.  One of the anonymous officers added, “(New recruits) get down to the Justice Center and they quit the first week.”

Interim Public Safety Director Dan Isom said Thursday that staffing immediately improved with this week’s facility consolidation.  

He said, “We know we were critically understaffed at both facilities. Now that we have combined both we feel we are adequately staffed for the safety of detainees and for our correctional officers.”

Isom added that they will reevaluate staffing in the next budget year. 

The Mayor’s office added that she and her team have met with Corrections employees after receiving their feedback and that Director Isom and acting Commissioner Carson are continuing to listen to their concerns, and to prioritize their safety and well-being as we move forward with the closure of the Workhouse.

It should be noted that the previous administration, after putting together a gang task force, prohibited input from corrections officers.

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