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After new Justice Center disturbances, 120 inmates are back at workhouse

ST. LOUIS (AP) — St. Louis began moving on Saturday roughly 120 detainees back to its old city jail, known as the workhouse, amid repeated security breaches at the newer downtown justice center.

The Medium Security Institution was reopened less than two months after St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones declared victory on a campaign promise to “close the workhouse.” Jones had cited what she called its unsanitary and inhumane conditions.

But critics had warned that the City Justice Center couldn’t yet handle the full load because it was understaffed and could become crowded. They also cited its inadequate safety features.

The latest disturbance began Friday evening when inmates on the third floor jimmied locks, escaped from their cells and caused a disturbance with other inmates, Jones’ spokesman Nick Dunne said. About 25 people were involved.

“This is what we said would happen,” public safety committee chair Joe Vaccaro said. “They closed it way too soon. The way they did this was ridiculous.”

The incident marked at least the sixth disturbance at the downtown jail in eight months and the fourth since February in which detainees escaped from their cells.

“Maybe we can eventually get to one jail,” Vaccaro said. “But we want to make sure that one jail is fixed.”

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