About 115 prisoners took over a St. Louis jail, in the United States of America on Saturday, February 6, 2021, setting fires, smashing glass and throwing objects from the prison’s fourth-floor windows.
A Corrections Officer was injured in the melee, according to Daily Mail reports, while fire crews rushed to the scene to douse the blazes the prisoners had started.
Dozens of law enforcement officials spent seven hours struggling to restore order to the disturbance which began around 3am at the St. Louis City Justice Center.
The spokesman for Democrat Mayor Lyda Krewson, Jacob Long, described the 115 inmates participating in the takeover as ‘extremely violent and non-compliant’. The group also ‘flooded floors and clogged toilets’.
He claimed the violent incident might have been fueled by concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions that had limited visits and stalled court proceedings.
There are currently 633 inmates housed at the facility – located in the city’s downtown area – and there are no confirmed cases of coronavirus inside.
Officials released a statement, saying all rioting inmates were ‘back in custody’ as of 10am.
In late December and early January, dozens of inmates were transferred out of the St. Louis City Justice Center after two separate disturbances stemming from fears of COVID-19.
‘I imagine they are under the same amount of stress due to COVID restrictions like the rest of us are,’ Long stated.
‘Courts haven’t been hearing cases in the 22nd Judicial Circuit. Their family visits have been restricted. But also they are acting out and that is the current situation,’ he added.
Tens of thousands of prisoners across the country have qualified for an early release amid the coronavirus pandemic, with officials worried the virus may spread through the prison system nationwide.
According to a government website, the City Justice Center is ‘a state of the art facility opened in 2002. The six-storey building has the capacity to hold 860 inmates’.
A press conference was held by St. Louis Public Safety Director, Jimmie Edwards, shortly after 10am, during which he described the inmates as ‘very violent and aggressive.’
‘These are angry, defiant, violent people that we housed at the justice centre. There is no one housed for a misdemeanour, municipal offence or a low-level felony. These are assaults on a police officer, homicide, things of that sort,’ he stated, according to KSDK.
Edwards claimed that the detainees were able to ‘jimmy their locks’ and several inmates were able to get into a hallway before breaching a second unit on the fourth floor of the facility.
Only the fourth floor was taken over, and the bottom three levels – which also hold inmates – were not breached.
Edwards said that around 55 inmates had now been moved to a ‘segregation unit’ which has ‘a maximum-security locking system’.
Sixty-five more inmates were transferred to the nearby St. Louis Medium Security Institution, commonly known as The St. Louis Workhorse.
The Workhorse, which opened in 1966, had been subject to numerous controversies regarding its living conditions.
Various lawsuits had referenced the institution’s ‘poor sanitation, limited ventilation, and poor medical care’.