ST. LOUIS, Mo. – A startling sight on Saturday morning in downtown St. Louis with windows smashed out at the Justice Center. Standing in a group looking out at Tucker Boulevard were inmates at the Justice Center, throwing debris out of the building and setting fires.
About 120 detainees from the Justice Center have been transferred after jimmying locks and breaching their cells. Jimmie Edwards, the Public Safety Director, said it started when a defiant detainee who was upset about something got into a scuffle with a corrections officer about 2:30 a.m.
Edwards said that despite the unrest no one was at risk inside the facility and it was all contained to one floor. He said there was no hostage situation. They were just very angry, defiant people and complied with officials when they were taken into custody.
Edwards says other detainees on the fourth floor of the Justice Center joined in and also jumped the corrections officer. Hw says that the officer was able to escape the fourth floor and is doing well.
Edwards explained some of the detainees have the ability to jimmy the locks on their cells even though the automated panel system indicates they are locked.
“I have been very, very concerned about our lock situation. When the building was built, it was built with these medium security locks that have the ability to be manipulated and compromised,” said Edwards.
Edwards says the group of detainees were able to get to the automated panel and release more detainees. He said a second unit on the fourth floor also started having defiant detainees and they were able to be released because their locks weren’t working correctly either.
Edwards says some paper was set on fire but it was on top of concrete and the fire department didn’t think there was much concern it would spread. The detainees also broke windows out of the fourth floor unit.
He said 55 of the men have been moved to the city’s segregation unit with better locks and a maximum-security locking system. He said officials have been working on it since December and he hopes to get it fixed soon.
Edwards said that 65 of the most violent offenders have been moved to another facility that is also more secure.
“We just have a lot of violent serious offenders at CJC,” said Edwards. “It happened at 2:30 and we don’t know why it happened and there was never ever a demand made. We were able to get in and move those folks to a more secure floor. A total of 117 people was involved so we had about 65 on the 11th St. side and another group of 55 or so on the 12th St. side.”
“This is a bunch of folk that were defiant, this was a bunch of people that decided they were going to engage in criminal mayhem and that is exactly what they did and they should be held accountable for that,” said Edwards.
In late December and early January, dozens of inmates were transferred out of the St. Louis City Justice Center after two disturbances stemming from concerns about unsafe conditions amid the coronavirus pandemic. Edwards said there was no reason given for the recent unrest. He said there are no detainees with COVID at the facility.
“This is the third time that we’ve had a situation at CJC since December,” noted Edwards. “The first two times they were many thoughts that they were concerned about Covid. The last time we did have Covid I was very concerned about that. We removed all Covid people out. At CJC there is no one at CJC with Covid. So, this is not an issue with respect to Covid.”
Mayor Lyda Krewson’s office and head of public safety, Jimmy Edwards, were in contact with police on the scene early this morning.
An investigation into Saturday mornings fire and property damage to the city Justice Center is ongoing.