ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOX)–The union representing city corrections officers is blaming the escape at the Justice Center on staffing shortages, which it claims the Slay Administration has failed to act on for over a year.
Business Representative JoAnn Williams with the Carpenter’s Union says 23 corrections positions have been vacant for over a year, because of budget cuts. In the medical unit where the breakout occurred there was one guard, and there should have been two, she says.
“If there had been two people on the post and a noise had been heard inside the cell that was suspicious, then an officer was to stand outside to make sure it was secure while an officer entered,” Williams said.
Corrections Commissioner Eugene Stubblefield confirms there are 23 vacancies system wide, and there was one guard on duty where the escape occurred.
“There was one person on the post where the breakout occurred,” Stubblefield said, “because there is very little activity at that time.”
Stubblefield says for the most part the vacancies are not resulting in under staffing at the city’s two jails, because he gives the guards overtime.
“There is no connection between shortage of staff and the breakout,” Stubblefield said, “When we have a shortage, we use overtime.”
But Williams says there has been too much overtime, with guards working ten and twelve hour shifts, losing their alertness and edge.
Stubblefield says the sole guard on duty where the breakout occurred was not working overtime. “He was fresh and on his regular shift,” Stubblefield said, “He’s an eight year veteran.”
Mayor Slay’s office says the breakout was the result of “incompetence ” and not because of staffing shortages.
Stubblefield says there are some 1,400 inmates housed in the two city jails, guarded by a rotating staff of about 300 corrections officers. The downtown Justice Center has over 600 inmates and the medium security facility on Hall street north of downtown has some 800 inmates, Stubblefield said.