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Both mayoral candidates pledge to end violence at Justice Center

ST. LOUIS – On the day before the city’s general election, both candidates for mayor condemned the rioting at the City Justice Center that erupted Sunday night. If elected mayor, they promised to immediately take steps to prevent a repeat of such violence.

“Last night marks the 4th serious incident at the CJC in a matter of months. It’s clear that the city is failing to ensure the safety and security of those incarcerated in the city’s care and corrections officers in our incarceration facilities,” Cara Spencer said. 

Spencer promised she would order a complete investigation of the City Justice Center and the Medium Security Institution (the Workhouse) to make sure staff and detainees are safe. 

Spencer said that she would work quickly to name a new public safety director and that she is committed to closing the Workhouse. 

Tishaura Jones promised she would develop a clear chain of command as mayor.

“The buck of accountability and responsibility will stop at the Mayor’s desk,” Jones said in a statement. “We must recognize the humanity of those being held in our facilities, right the wrongs of injustice currently in the City Justice Center, and dramatically reshape and reimagine public safety in the City of Saint Louis.”

In her statement, Jones said she was horrified and very frustrated by the calls for help by the detainees. Many of those have been waiting for trial since the start of the pandemic.

 “I am incredibly disappointed, frustrated, and saddened by the injustice coming from the City Justice Center. We have dysfunctional locks, unsafe conditions for those held in our facilities, and a seemingly apathetic city government,” Jones said. 

“I’ll work immediately with the Circuit Attorney and the U.S. Attorney to move quickly to get those being held pre-trial established court dates and processed through the system,” Jones said.  “Uprisings at our facilities due to unjust conditions and violations of the detainees’ rights are unacceptable.”

For her part, Spencer said,  “We must work through the backlog of cases to ensure that those at both city incarceration facilities move as quickly as possible, to put an end to cash bail for low level offenses and to house those necessary with the dignity and safety and that all human beings deserve.”

In the interview at her campaign office at 3359 S. Jefferson Avenue, Spencer said the reception to her run for mayor had been positive. “We are just communicating with voters, hearing what’s important to them,” she said.  As for the most important issues, Spencer said, “People are very concerned about safety in their communities.”

Meanwhile, both candidates raised about the same amount of money for their campaigns, according to their required reports filed with the Missouri Ethics Commission on March 29, eight days before the election.

Polling places will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday. City voters will cast ballots for mayor, for aldermen in 16 of 28 wards and for comptroller. They will vote on whether to continue the earnings tax and on several questions submitted by the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District.

Gary Stoff, Republican Director of the St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners, said he expected about 50,000 to 60,000 of the approximately 200,000 registered voters in the city to cast votes. That’s 25 to 30 percent of the total. 

“We should have final unofficial returns by 10 o’clock if not sooner,” Stoff said. “Our goal is always to make the 10 o’clock news if not sooner.”

Jim Merkel

southsidemerkel@gmail.com Born and raised in St. Louis, Jim Merkel covered communities throughout the area from 1991 to 2013 for the old Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis. He is the author of four books about the Gateway City published by Reedy Press. He and his wife, Lorraine, live in the Bevo Mill neighborhood of south St. Louis. For more about Jim, visit www.jimmerkelthewriter.com.

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