Jail warden isn’t to blame for recent deaths, St. Louis public safety chief says

The director of public safety in St. Louis defended the downtown jail and its embattled warden, stating that there was no evidence linking the warden to recent deaths. Charles Coyle, the public safety director, addressed concerns about the jail during a meeting with an aldermanic committee. He explained that the majority of deaths at the jail since 2020 were due to natural causes or accidental overdoses, attributing these to the Health disparities and substance abuse issues within the communities detainees come from.

Coyle also highlighted the poor Health conditions of many detainees upon their arrival at the City Justice Center, noting that 30%-50% have some form of dependency and serious Health issues. He also mentioned that the number of suicides at the jail over the past four years was lower than the state average for jails.

Additionally, Coyle praised Corrections Commissioner Jennifer Clemons-Abdullah for her efforts to improve the jail, citing renovations to fix broken cell locks and increased security measures to prevent drug smuggling. Despite ongoing criticism from advocates and aldermen, Coyle defended Clemons-Abdullah and emphasized the progress made to enhance safety at the facility.

However, the civilian oversight board for the jail saw a resignation from its vice chair, Janis Mensah. In a letter to board leaders and city officials, Mensah called for the warden’s resignation, the closure of the jail, and criticized the mayor. Mensah had been critical of the administration and had been outspoken in investigating issues at the jail.

Overall, the situation at the downtown jail in St. Louis remains a topic of concern and scrutiny, as the public safety committee continues to address the issues. Additionally, the ongoing staffing shortages, inmate conditions, and the handling of recent deaths are raising concerns among city officials, advocates, and the public.

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