ST. LOUIS – A hearing Tuesday attempted to force answers regarding recent FOX 2 reports about drug overdoses and a death at the St. Louis Justice Center.
Up until now, jail officials failed to answer repeated questions about how drugs are getting into the jail and why nobody seemed to know about a death at the facility until FOX 2 reported it.
During the hearing, Division of Corrections Commissioner Dale Glass acknowledged more drugs are getting into the jail right now.
“What we’ve seen during COVID is an increase in drugs, increase in people trying to get drugs inside, even though there’s no visits,” Glass said.
Glass said inmates are bringing the drugs in when they’re arrested, employees are sneaking it in, and it’s coming through the mail.
FOX 2 reported Dec. 4, 2020, that three Justice Center inmates were simultaneously rushed to hospitals after drug overdoses. We also revealed the Nov. 2019 death of Kevin Cavins, who had just been detained on a probation violation and died in custody while in drug detox.
St. Louis Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards said they could not get into that.
“I informed you that you could not—or we would not—discuss specific cases that are in litigation,” he said.
Yet there is no current litigation. Attorney Mark Pedroli told us last week how he is looking into Cavins’ death but hasn’t filed a lawsuit. Pedroli said he might sue to get video the city’s withholding.
“These are, in a sense, medical records – somebody having a medical emergency on film. This should be disclosed,” he said at the time.
Pedroli is not the only one demanding videos. Arch City Defender representative Nahuel Fefer said the city has denied his organization’s requests for video of recent jail confrontations.
“The people of St. Louis deserve to see footage of these and other incidents,” he said. “Guards cut off exhaust fans and sprayed mace into the pod. Again, this is a pod of individuals suffering from COVID.”
The debate shifted from drugs to COVID as Fefer and his colleague, Inez Bordeaux, said dozens of inmates described a Dec. 29, 2019, disturbance over the pandemic. FOX 2 reported that it led to 56 inmate transfers.
“They were made to wait over 24 hours before they could take a shower to wash the mace off of their bodies,” Bordeaux said.
“They are awaiting trial with an average length of stay of more than 300 days,” Fefer added. “It’s no surprise though that at least one detainee has considered taking a guilty plea just to potentially get out soon. He doesn’t want to die.”
Commissioner Glass said the mace incident was justified but the two-hour hearing in front of the St. Louis Health and Human Services Committee ended with no promise anyone will see any videos. That may require legal action.
Alderwoman Cara Spencer, who called this hearing, said she will be following up.