Inmates Rebel against Inhuman Conditions at St. Louis Justice Center

By Ed Dalton

On Saturday over 100 inmates at the St. Louis Justice Center (STL JC) rose up against inhuman conditions. The rebellion began with the inmates, who live under constant repression, refusing to enter unsanitary and overcrowded cells. The state sought to further penalize those who resisted by transferring them to a medium-security facility known as the “workhouse”.

On February 6, inmates at the STL JC escalated their resistance by circumventing the locks on their cells and assailing a guard to gain control of two units on the fourth floor. The inmates smashed windows and unfurled banners calling for their liberation and showing solidarity with the movement against the police, with one banner reading, “What about Anthony Smith?” referring to a man murdered by the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department in 2011.

The rebellion held control for nearly 6 hours, and fires were set inside of the jail as a powerful act of protest which forced the media to pay attention. Family members and local community showed their support on the ground outside of the jail. One supporter of the rebellion who has family members incarcerated inside told Tribune, “It’s not about black and white anymore, it’s about who has the power.”

The ruling class and its media have attempted to delegitimize the resistance of the prisoners and depoliticize the important rebellion to better cover up the fact that inmates are being abused and denied basic rights and dignity.

Two days after the rebellion was subdued, local organization For the People-STL, led by the revisionist Christopher Winston, was the only group to hold an organized solidarity action. In spite of the freezing temperatures and the abandonment of the prisoners by mainstream groups, FTP managed to muster approximately 30 people to show support for the rebellion.

According to ruling-class media the St. Louis American, “Winston stood at the microphone in front of the Justice Center at 200 S. Tucker Blvd., to read what he said was an account from an inmate—from uncomfortably cold interior temperatures, to lack of food, to ill-fitting clothes, the inmate’s account echoed concerns previously relayed by activists and organizations.”

The rebellion which inspired the solidarity protest also forced St. Louis mayor Lydia Crewson to “launch a task force” to “investigate the conditions in the jail.” While the ruling class and their media denounce the just rebellion of those incarcerated, it cannot be denied that the rebellion itself has forced the state to address the well-known and unacceptable conditions of the jail, which provide fertile conditions for the spread of deadly viruses, including COVID-19.

The Old State is committed to using such miserable conditions to carry out viral genocide against the poor, especially targeting Black people and other poor ethnic minorities. The inmates in STL JC set fire to more than sheets and mattresses: they light a way forward by showing that it is right to rebel.

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