ST. LOUIS – Following several inmate uprisings at the St. Louis Justice Center in the last 12 months, city leaders unveiled millions of dollars in security upgrades at the troubled facility.
In these incidents, inmates were able to figure out a way to open locks and get out of their cells.
“When the facility was built originally, the locks were not jail-grade locks,” said Interim St. Louis Public Safety Director Dr. Dan Isom.
During the uprisings, prisoners broke windows and set fires. The upgrades cost $7 million and focused on the third floor, where many problems have occurred. A major part of the improvements were installing new locks.
“Although you may not be able to take pictures, you will be able to view the locks and it will clearly demonstrate that that they are an upgrade,” Isom said.
Isom and Corrections Commissioner Jennifer Clemons-Abdullah say their goal is to be transparent about improvements at the city jail.
“I think the key is that we’re going to try to remain fair, firm, and consistent. If we do that, we’ll have a better outcome,” Clemons-Abdullah said.
The upgrades include elevated workstations for correctional officers to make them safer, install more secure sally ports at the third-floor entrance, and bolt down tables. In the past, the tables weren’t bolted down and the workstations for the correctional officers on the same level as the inmates. The corrections commissioner says the officers now feel appreciated.
“They feel refreshed that somebody has looked at the third floor that knows what it is to be a corrections officer,” she said. “And I asked for feedback, ‘What can we do to make it better,’ ‘What can we do to make you feel safer?’ And they said overall they feel pretty safe with the new third floor.”
St. Louis officials say $20 million will be spent for long-term overall security improvements at the Justice Center. Upgrades are needed on the second, fourth, and fifth floors.
“Throughout this process, and moving forward into the new phase, the health and safety of the detainees and our staff is our top priority,” Isom said.