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Board of Aldermen Public Safety Committee to Investigate Jail Breaks

Categories: Politics
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"A lot of things that were told to us in that meeting, there were some conflicts," said Alderman Carter, who chairs the Board's public safety committee
The Board of Aldermen passed a resolution today to investigate the city's corrections division, particularly the string of four jail breaks in the past fifteen months. The investigation will be handled by the Board's Public Safety Committee, which is chaired by 27th Ward Alderman Greg Carter.

The committee held a hearing on the issue two weeks ago. Since that meeting, though, Board of Alderman President Lewis Reed's office has released e-mails and memos indicating that the fall-guy for the break-outs, Corrections Commissioner Gene Stubblefield, warned his superior, Public Safety Director Charles Bryson, of the jails' vulnerability for months. Furthermore, Carter said that he noticed inconsistencies between certain testimonies at the hearing and facts he has since learned-- all of which he assured will be presented at the next hearing, which is scheduled for Thursday, October 13.

"A lot of things that were told to us in that meeting, there were some conflicts," said Carter. "I didn't want this to sit. The media took it-- it was in the newspapers-- and nothing happened."

Carter said that he isn't planning to use subpoenas, but the option is on the table in case he is unable to gain access to all the records the committee needs.

The memos, released soon after the initial hearing, show that Stubblefield, who was suspended by the city in September, had consistently asked Bryson not to eliminate certain managerial positions at the St. Louis City Justice Center and the Medium Security Institution. Stubblefield prophetically wrote in April: "I am concern[ed] because corrections has los[t] numerous managers and supervisors over the years due to budget cuts. We have a major public safety responsibility and jails can become a dangerous place to live and work without an appropriate managerial staffing pattern."

Accordingly, the Board's resolution specifies that, in addition to the escapes, it will look into "issues related to staffing and budgeting, issues related to work hours and civil service classifications, and related to disciplinary investigative and structural modification actions."

"We can finally get to the bottom of why the system is so broken," said Reed. "For years we had no escapes and then suddenly we have this rash of escapes."

Stubblefield, Bryson, and the mayor's operations director, Police Captain Sam Dotson, will certainly be called to testify. Sources from city hall tell Daily RFT that there is a possibility Mayor Francis Slay and his chief of staff Jeff Rainford will also be called. Slay has taken some heat for the break-outs because he appointed Bryson public safety director in 2007 even though Bryson had no prior public safety experience. The Stubblefield memos suggest that Bryson's inexperience may have played a role in the jails' vulnerability.

Carter, though, stressed that the investigation is about the city's corrections, and nothing more.

"This is not focusing on the mayor," he said. "I want to be very clear. This is just focused on the break-outs."



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