Inmates at the St. Louis Justice Center

Inmates at the St. Louis Justice Center yell to those watching from the street, in St. Louis on Saturday, February 6, 2021.

Several local advocacy groups on Wednesday asked the city to allow attorneys to inspect the conditions at the City Justice Center following last weekend’s uprising. However, the city responded with a resounding “no” and an accusation that these organizations “clearly intended to spread a false narrative” by sending their letter with the request.

The group of organizations sent the letter to St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson, Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards and Corrections Commissioner Dale Glass. It was signed by individuals from the ACLU of Missouri, ArchCity Defenders, and the MacArthur Justice Center — as well as Missouri State Public Defender Mary Fox and Elad Gross.

 

The letter states that, in light of the “significant discrepancies between what we are hearing from directly impacted people and the information shared by the City,” the coalition of organizations wants the city to verify, within 24 hours, that they are providing full and complete access to food, clean drinking water, mattresses, and bedding for all inmates. 

In addition, the letter asked the city to immediately grant access to housing units and common areas in CJC for attorneys to inspect, verify, and document conditions inside, including the ability to talk with detainees.

The letter indicates the organizations have received reports from inmates, who say that since Saturday’s uprising, some inmates are only being given one meal a day. Others, according to the letter, have gone up to 72 hours without food or water. People are sleeping on floors and non-functioning toilets are overflowing from use.

In response to the letter, Michael Garvin, the city’s attorney, refuted the claims that the jail was not taking proper COVID-19 precautions or providing adequate basic needs to the inmates. He said these accusations were an insult to all staff involved with running the jail.

He also called the inmates who participated in the protest “incarcerated rioters” who “committed felony crimes.”

“The rationalizations suggested by your group for this criminal conduct are simply false,” he wrote.

“CJC staff is currently focused on assessing and repairing the damage caused by the rioters. We do not plan to provide tours of the facility,” he wrote in closing. 

Rep. Cori Bush sends letter 

Rep. Cori Bush, D-Missouri, also sent a letter this week to Krewson, Edwards and Glass regarding her concerns about jail conditions following Saturday’s uprising. 

In it, she asks for data regarding COVID-19 testing, transmission and precautions, as well as other information regarding the nature of charges the inmates are being held on, other jail protocols, current conditions of the jail, and a breakdown of how CARES Act funding has been spent within the jail. 

Bush asked for a response no later than Monday. 

“If we're not listening then they're going to continue to cry out, and so that is on us,” she told The St. Louis American. “And so that's why we sent that letter to the city officials to say, ‘let's talk about this.’ And the thing is, we want to talk about it, we want to address it, we want to make it public, so that we can have better accountability. And then also so that those conditions can change to the people who are there.” 

The letter can be read at https://bit.ly/373lqFM.

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