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Missouri auditor investigates St. Louis jail amid concerns about management and treatment of inmates

A man lies down in a prison cell with one leg propped up and one foot on the floor.
Darrin Klimek
Getty Images
Sen. Steve Roberts said he received whistleblower complaints alleging inmate abuse at the St. Louis city jail. Roberts requested an investigation by the office of Auditor Scott Fitzpatrick.

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The Missouri state auditor is investigating the city jail in St. Louis, citing allegations of mismanagement, inadequate nutrition and medical care, and interference with a civilian oversight board.

The investigation by the office of Republican Auditor Scott Fitzpatrick was triggered by a request from Democratic state Sen. Steve Roberts of St. Louis, who said he received whistleblower complaints alleging inmate abuse, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Following the launch of the investigation on Thursday, Fitzpatrick asked Mayor Tishaura Jones for the jail's food vendor invoices, facility and operational policies, and health insurance contracts. He also wants correspondence with the city's Detention Facilities Oversight Board.

Tensions between the mayor and community leaders escalated recently after three incarcerated people died within a six-week period. About 700 people are currently housed at the downtown jail.

"We have a serious problem in St. Louis if the mayor's administration is obstructing the oversight efforts of the Detention Facilities Oversight Board she herself championed and supported," Fitzpatrick said in a statement.

The city has complied with recommendations and made improvements following state audits over the past two years, Jones' office said. But some members of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen, as well as jail board members, have called for the firing of Corrections Commissioner Jennifer Clemons-Abdullah.

The jail has been the site of several violent uprisings since 2021. In August, a guard was abducted by inmates, but was freed hours later after a police SWAT team intervened.

In February 2021, inmates set fires, caused flooding, broke out fourth-floor windows and tossed chairs and other items through the broken glass. A guard also was attacked.

Inmates again broke windows and set a fire during another riot in April 2021. A month later, Dale Glass, the embattled director of the jail, resigned.

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