ST. LOUIS – Inmates at the St. Louis Justice Center rioted for the third time in less than four months Sunday night. The riot broke out around 8:45 p.m. on the third floor.
Police said at least 60 inmates escaped from their cells and busted windows, set fire, and threw things to the ground from third-floor windows.
The situation lasted until about 10:15 p.m. Sunday when police were able to get control of the situation. Another fire started shortly after on the second floor but was put out by fire crews.
Dale Glass, Corrections Commissioner, said he can’t specifically say how the inmates got out of their cells but is looking into the possibility the locks were compromised similarly to an earlier riot. He also explained the inmates cut the cameras so he may never fully know what happened last night.
This is the third time inmates have created a similar scene at the St. Louis Justice Center. The last one happened on February 6. Inmates were able to block the locks from working properly. City officials said they transferred about 120 inmates to more secure facilities after that situation.
A St. Louis Corrections Task Force was established following that incident. Alleged inhumane treatment is one of the many findings.
Previously, the inmates made complaints about their living conditions inside of the jail. Glass said there is no merit to those complaints.
“There is nothing we did to make them act this way,” said Glass during a Monday morning briefing.
Glass also said no one messed up to allow another riot to happen.
Glass said the two things he is hearing from detainees is they want more recreation. He said prior to COVID the detainees were not in their cells often and now they are spending a lot of time there.
He also said they want their court cases resolved. Court proceedings have been delayed for some time now due to the pandemic.
Mayor Lyda Krewson said she spoke with one of the judges this morning and said they are working to clear up their dockets as quickly as possible.
“This is a very concerning and dangerous situation . Not only for the detainees but for all personal this created a high risk situation for them,” Krewson said.
President of the Board of Public Service, Rich Bradley, gave an update on the repairs that began after the February riot.
“We are doing everything as quickly as we can,” said Bradley.
He explained many of the doors, locks, and panels need to be made special for the St. Louis facility. He said that process takes time. He says that the first project is expected to be complete by mid-May.
The Corrections Department says it is looking at the city’s Medium Security Institution, also known as the workhouse, to house some of these inmates.
Hiring is also underway. Twenty people have been hired and trained recently and the process is underway for hiring 30 more officers.
“It’s clear that the city is failing to ensure the safety and security of those incarcerated in the city’s care and corrections officers in our incarceration facilities,” alderwoman and St. Louis City mayoral candidate Cara Spencer said.
The April 6 election is Tuesday and Spencer said if she is elected mayor she “will launch a full investigation into the city’s two detention facilities to ensure that staff and the city residents incarcerated there are safe.”
Treasurer Tishaura O. Jones is also running for mayor and said about the Sunday night riot, “I am incredibly disappointed, frustrated, and saddened by the injustice coming from the City Justice Center. We have dysfunctional locks, unsafe conditions for those held in our facilities, and a seemingly apathetic city government. I’ll work immediately with the Circuit Attorney and the US Attorney to move quickly to get those being held pre-trial established court dates and processed through the system. Uprisings at our facilities due to unjust conditions and violations of the detainees’ rights are unacceptable.”