117 inmates seize section of St Louis jail throw chairs on street, set fires, pandemonium leaves officer injured
On 2.30 AM on Saturday, 117 inmates took over a section of the City Justice Center in downtown St. Louis, Missouri. The consternation resulted in the injuring of a corrections officer at the facility, officials said.
According to the latest reports, the incident began in a fourth-floor unit when a "defiant" inmate "who was very, very upset" got into a fight with the corrections officer. Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards said at a news conference that the officer was then jumped by other inmates in the unit. According to Edwards, during this scuffle, several detainees were able to "jimmy" the locks on their cells, open them and get into the unit.
An NBC report says that as jail employees were trying to get the corrections officer to safety, the inmates accessed a lock panel system and “other detainees were released from their cells into the unit.” “Even though our automated P.A. system would indicate that the cells are locked, they are in fact not locked and so other detainees were able to get out of their cells and into the unit,” he said.
Edwards said the unit was breached and inmates were able to get into a hallway. A second unit on the floor also "started to have defiant detainees," he said. "Those detainees were also very aggressive, very violent. They too were able to be released from their cells because those locks were also jimmied. And they were also able to breach their unit," he told reporters.
You can watch the video of the uprising here. "HAPPENING NOW: Inmates are rioting at the STL city jail downtown. The mayor is calling this a dangerous ongoing disturbance. @ksdknews," an on ground reporter tweeted.
According to KSDK, the inmates threw items out of broken windows and started small fires inside the jail. Chairs and other items were thrown across the street and at least one car had a shattered windshield, the outlet reported. Several of the inmates were seen holding signs and chanting. Edwards explained to reporters later that none of the inmates were able to gain access to other floors, and by 10 a.m., the situation had been contained after sheriff's deputies and police assisted.
The identity of the injured corrections officer is not revealed yet but officials say that he was in the hospital and expected to recover. This is the third disturbance at the facility, which Edwards said houses inmates with "very serious offenses." In late December and early January, inmates had disrupted the jail in order to express concerns over unsafe conditions amid the coronavirus pandemic.
But Edwards said the detainees involved in Saturday's incident did not make any demands and added that there are no cases of Covid-19 at the facility. “This was a bunch of folks that were defiant," he said. "This was a bunch of people that decided that they were going to engage in criminal mayhem, and that’s exactly what they did and they should be held accountable for what they did." According to the latest reports, 55 prisoners were moved to the segregation unit at the jail. Another 65 of "some of the most violent offenders" were taken to the Medium Security Institution, which Edwards said is more secure than the City Justice Center.
A spokesperson for St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson called the situation a "very dangerous disturbance." According to KSDK, the jail currently houses around 633 inmates, and all of them were secured inside the building as of Saturday morning.
Ever since the revolt, many have raised their voices. Missouri Representative Rasheen Aldridge condemned the treatment of inmates at the center and said in a statement posted to Twitter that he would seek answers as to the concerns of the inmates that have still not been heard despite recent uprisings. "What MLK said was true when he talked about riots being the language of the unheard, The inmates have been ignored for 2 months, how much longer will they go unheard?" the statement reportedly said in part.
My statement on the incident at the City Justice Center this morning.— Rep Rasheen Aldridge. Jr (@RepSheenBean) February 6, 2021
I promise that I will use my position as the top Democrat on The House Committee on Corrections to get answers on why it is taking 3 uprisings from inmates to have their concerns heard pic.twitter.com/mDRVbop7w2
St. Louis Treasurer and mayoral candidate Tishaura Jones took to Twitter to share her statement on the matter as well. "The incident this morning at the City Justice Center (CJC) is an indictment of our entire criminal justice system -- a system that has inhumanely housed inmates and prisoners in the midst of a global pandemic without the necessary supplies to keep themselves safe," her statement read in part.
My Statement on the Incident this Morning at the City Justice Center Downtown: pic.twitter.com/4klJiPL6h5— Tishaura O. Jones (@tishaura) February 6, 2021