Inmates stage uprising at St. Louis jail dogged by unrest

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Inmates broke windows, set a fire and threw chairs and other items out of a third-floor window in the second significant uprising in two months at a downtown jail, leaving St. Louis leaders again trying to find answers.

Media reports said at one point Sunday night, inmates at the City Justice Center lowered a rope made of tied-together bed sheets, though none tried to use it to escape.

People on the ground outside shouted support for the inmates. A group of 50 to 75 people were protesting conditions at the jail, which also was the site of a similar uprising on Feb. 6.

The latest uprising began just before 9 p.m. Around 10:15 p.m., sheriff's deputies in riot gear appeared. Firefighters used a hose to douse flames. The inmates moved away from the broken windows by about 10:30 p.m., according to news outlets.

Then around 11 p.m., inmates broke windows on the other side of the jail and began throwing objects again. Thirty minutes later, the inmates had disappeared and officers could be seen inside.

Jacob Long, spokesman for Mayor Lyda Krewson, said there were no reports of serious injuries.

Some inmates were heard yelling demands for court dates. Proceedings have been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Supporters of the inmates also have complained about what they perceive as lax COVID-19 protocols inside the jail, though city leaders have said there were virtually no cases of the virus among inmates.

The February uprising involved over 100 inmates and sent one corrections officer to the hospital. Officials said detainees also were upset about conditions inside the jail and had concerns about COVID-19.

There have been at least four uprisings at the jail since December.

A task force was appointed to look into issues at the jail. Its chairman, the Rev. Darryl Gray, issued a report last month urging the city to create an independent oversight board to help oversee the lockup.

“What happened last night was avoidable," Gray said Monday. "If the mayor and the commissioner for corrections had implemented the 13 urgent recommendations that were submitted by the task force, then they would have shown the detainees some good faith in responding to their concerns. And that has not been done.”

City leaders have confirmed previously that some cells don't lock properly at the jail. Gray said it was remarkable the city would keep detainees in a cell with broken locks.

“You have younger detainees who are simply frustrated for being locked up over 23 hours a day," Gray said. "You can't get to court. You don't have visits. You don't have enough time for recreation.”

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