For Immediate ReleaseFebruary 8, 2021
Contact Person: Velta Smith (314.367.5959)
The insurrection that occurred on Saturday, February 6 at the St. Louis Justice Center in response to COVID-19 has been boiling for almost a year. The prolonged neglect by city officials starting with Mayor Lyda Krewson and Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards is unconscionable and unacceptable. OBS must always remind the public that the city jail and the workhouse are holding facilities until citizens are arraigned and charged. They are innocent until proven guilty.
Last summer, the Organization for Black Struggle began getting calls from inmates who were confined to the St. Louis City and County jails. There were growing concerns about the pandemic and whether these institutions were following CDC guidelines to ensure the safety of both residents and staff. OBS reached out to the directors of both facilities to provide testing through Affinia Healthcare who was committed to sending its mobile units out.On June 29, OBS held a press conference to announce its efforts to get inmates tested at these facilities. We reported that the County used its own Department of Health to perform the COVID-19 tests but that city jail officials were unresponsive.
The new year began with OBS again receiving calls and emails from family members whose loved ones were confined to the Justice Center. We were informed that a guard had been taken hostage and inmates were protesting conditions in the jail that was potentially spreading the deadly virus. On January 1, OBS held a press conference in front of the St. Louis City Justice Center to report what was going on inside the facility. We implored the mayor to investigate and take appropriate actions to maintain order and the safety of parties. Subsequently, we requested a number of documents relative to the incident through the Sunshine Act. To date, no documents have been received.
It was no surprise when we received early morning calls on February 6 that inmates had taken over the fourth floor of the facility, knocking out windows for better visibility and begging for relief. The uprising made national news, once again projecting the city’s racist views in policy and practice. It was also clear that nothing had been done in the last 30 days to rectify the housing situation. Retaliation by staff since the weekend incident have further put the health and safety at risk of those entrusted to their care. It is reported that inmates are being forced to sleep on the floor, some in the cold water left from the fire department putting out fires which had been set. Others have been without food and water for two days.
These incidents underscore the incompetence and indifference of the Krewson administration. The lack of resolution is only escalating the tensions inside. The situation is grave and demands immediate action. We ask the citizens of St. Louis to demand the mayor cease and desist the litany of lies coming out about the situation. The conditions require a committed approach to a healthy and human resolution.