ST. LOUIS – More than 100 detainees are headed back to the St. Louis Workhouse following another security breach at the Downtown Justice Center.
Last Friday, approximately 25 detainees escaped their cells on the third floor of the Justice Center by picking faulty locks. St. Louis Interim Public Safety Director Dan Isom said there were only three correctional officers on duty at the time of the incident. Those officers used pepper spray to regain control of the situation, Isom said.
“After the incident and the one early in the week, we did determine what is the best course of action moving forward,” Isom said. “We updated (the media) and we have always had a contingency plan for moving people to the CJC annex on Hall Street.”
On Saturday, jail officials began transferring 120 detainees back to the Medium Security Institution, more commonly known as The Workhouse. Eighteen women were transferred and 100 men will follow in the upcoming days.
Isom said these temporary transfers will allow the city to more quickly upgrade the locks and electronic locking system at the Justice Center.
“This will allow us to more rapidly fix and upgrade many of the locks inside the CJC,” he said. “We believe this is the best option going forward for a facility that has been neglected for more than 20 years.”
Friday’s breach is yet another in a growing list of disturbances at the Justice Center over an eight-month span.
In February, we watched as Justice Center detainees took control of the fourth floor for more than six hours and showed the world they could do it. They not only left their cells but also breached an area that is supposed to be a secure zone for officers.
Back in April, we witnessed at least 60 inmates escape from their cells, busting windows, set fires, and throw things to the ground from the third-floor windows.
Isom says the current conditions at the Justice Center were inherited and it will take time to correct decades of accumulated problems.
“The past two administrations, no resources have been put in these facilities. So, changes in equipment (and) staffing will take time to correct,” he said. “We are making every effort, and this is one of them, to pivot; to do the best we can in a very difficult situation.”