St. Louis: ‘We Want Court Dates!’ Inmates at City Justice Center Rebel Once Again

Photo credit: Colter Peterson/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP

By Ed Dalton

Two months after a fierce uprising broke out at the St. Louis City Justice Center (CJC), inmates have once again revolted against the inhuman conditions and sluggish legal proceedings that have kept inmates languishing in state custody without court dates. Inmates have continued to press their grievances, including the gross mishandling of health protocols in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Inmates began their revolt around 8:30 p.m. on Sunday, April 4, breaking out of cells that officials say have faulty lock mechanisms, covering security cameras, and proceeding to break out the third-floor windows, one floor beneath windows still boarded up from the February 6 revolt.

Hanging out of the broken windows, inmates chanted, “We want court dates!” which was echoed by the crowd below. One inmate held up a sign that read, “Help Us.” The inmates let down ropes made out of sheets and threw out other items, including burning mattresses. At one point, inmates pulled up cigarettes tied to a rope by supporters. The revolt, which was sustained for about three hours, was subdued by the late evening as police SWAT teams moved into the jail.

Since 2018, the average length of time inmates spent waiting for trial at the CJC has increased from 185 days to 359 days. There are currently about 1,000 people jailed at the CJC—more than 300 of them have been waiting over a year for a trial. The state has blamed the delayed court dates on the pandemic, but it is their total indifference toward those they incarcerate that fuels the long stays and has become the principal grievance of the inmates.

Mayor Lyda Krewson, whose city government operates the jails, attempted to push blame for the revolt on to the district attorney and judges for the long stays. Government officials also tried to depoliticize the revolt, attributing it to the faulty locking mechanisms and painting the inmates as criminals who were simply rioting. St. Louis Corrections Commissioner Dale Glass sought to delegitimize the protest and all those standing with the inmates, saying that outside supporters were “emboldening” the inmates.

The inmates are carrying out a bold and justified rebellion in order to call attention to their inhuman conditions, and in doing so expose the farcical nature of the bourgeois legal system and its claims of ‘justice.’ The longer the state imprisons the inmates, who have yet to see their day in court, the more the inmates’ resistance will grow and take even more combative action than what they have already bravely carried out.

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