CrimeNewsThe SouthSider

New chief picked for troubled city jail system

ST. LOUIS — The city’s beleaguered jail system is getting a new commissioner.

Mayor Tishaura Jones’ office has announced that Jennifer Clemons-Abdullah will take over as corrections commissioner on Sept. 13. She has 30 years of experience in corrections, most recently as an associate warden at a federal prison in Arkansas.

The City Justice Center downtown has been the site of several riots this year. The city is spending millions of dollars to repair faulty locks.

The city’s other jail, the Medium Security Institution, has been criticized for years for alleged unsanitary conditions and extreme heat in the summer and cold in the winter. Jones has promised to shut down the facility, also known as the workhouse.

Jones had criticized the leadership of the former commissioner, Dale Glass. He resigned effective June 1.

9-1-1 system overhaul

Meanwhile, as part of the mayor’s plan to streamline and improve the city’s 9-1-1 emergency dispatch system, Jones visited the downtown dispatch center Thursday. She met with 9-1-1- supervisors and dispatchers, and spent time sitting with a dispatcher as calls were handled.

“St. Louisans deserve a 9-1-1 system that makes them feel safe and protected,” Jones said in a statement. “I appreciate the hard work our 9-1-1 dispatchers do to connect residents with lifesaving resources in moments of crisis. My administration is committed to addressing both the short and long-term problems that have faced this system for years.”

The dispatch system has struggled for years, with some callers experiencing long holds while waiting for a response to their emergencies. Currently, when a resident calls 9-1-1, all calls are funneled initially through the police dispatchers, creating a bottleneck.

In close collaboration with acting Public Safety Director Dr. Dan Isom, Jones’ administration is exploring essential changes in three areas: personnel, technology and diversion. The Department of Public Safety wants to combine and centralize police and fire dispatchers into one facility, with the aim of eventually consolidating their work under the City Emergency Management Agency. Technology upgrades are also needed. 

These changes play a larger role in the goal of connecting the right professionals to the right calls for help. In July, Jones and U.S. Rep. Cori Bush, D-St. Louis, toured Denver’s STAR program, which deploys social service and mental health providers to 9-1-1 calls that don’t require a police response.

St. Louis is looking for more dispatchers, and people can apply online at https://www.stlouis-mo.gov/jobs/ or call 314-622-4308.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Staff

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