Inmates at St. Louis jail set fires, break out windows

(AP) – Inmates at a St. Louis prison set fire to floods, broke fourth-floor windows and tossed a stationary bike, chairs and mattresses outside of Saturdays in recent unrest over coronavirus pandemic concerns and restrictions, which require limited visits and blocked trials, officials said.

Dozens of police officers worked for hours before they got the riot under control at the St. Louis Justice Center just before 10 a.m., Mayor Lyda Krewson spokesman Jacob Long said. About 115 inmates were involved, said Long, who described the group as “extremely violent and non-compliant” in an interview with The Associated Press.

A correction officer was attacked and treated in a hospital for his injuries before he was released, Long said. No inmates were injured, he said.

Videos posted by passers-by on social media showed inmates standing near three windows on the fourth floor that had been smashed. Some carried signs or thrown objects, others on fire, on the sidewalk. Firefighters put out the fires with a hose.

Long did not have a cost estimate for the damage, but described it as “quite extensive”.

“There are some burn marks on the front of the building. They destroyed the inside of their floor and threw all sorts of things outside. … They flooded the floor, clogged the toilets, clogged the drains, causing water damage, ”said Long.

One issue that played a role in the chaos was a locking issue that allows inmates to break free from their cells by tampering with the locks, said Jimmie Edwards, the city’s public security director. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that officials have been looking into the issue since December.

Long said 65 inmates were transferred from the downtown prison to the St. Louis Medium Security Institution, also known as the Workhouse. He also said law enforcement had spoken to prosecutors and that there was the potential for some of those involved to face additional charges.

Dozens of inmates were relocated from the St. Louis City Justice Center in late December and early January after two separate riots. Officials said inmates were upset with conditions in the prison amid the pandemic.

Although there were no confirmed cases of COVID-19 among the 633 people detained at the St. Louis Justice Center on Friday, tensions have eased.

“I imagine they are under the same stress as the rest of us due to COVID restrictions,” Long said. “The courts did not hear any cases in the 22nd judicial district. Their family visits have been restricted. But they also act and that is the current situation. “

Activists have protested the conditions in the workhouse for years, but plans to close it have stalled. Supporters who keep it open say it offers a way to clear out inmates amid the pandemic.

“These events show that two facilities are currently required,” Long said.

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