Like Christ on the third day, detainees in St. Louis jails have risen to challenge state oppression.
“Apparently, Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner fights racism by sustaining it, while presiding over the mass incarceration of hundreds of inmates, a majority of who are poor and Black.”
In the early morning hours of April 4, 2021, a day that many Christians recognized as Resurrection Sunday, detainees, at the St. Louis City Justice Center moved in the spirit of insurrection to challenge their oppressors and well documented repression at the jail. After the first major rebellion at the jail grabbed national attention on February 6, 2021, government bureaucrats in collaboration with “activists” of the social justice state scrambled to mystify what is really happening to detainees at the city’s jails through sham reports and pseudo-independent investigations.
The attempt to paper over the status quo of cruelty and inhumanity exacted on detainees in the aftermath of the February 6th jail uprising has proved unsuccessful. Detainees continue to show those who thought they had repressed their instincts toward self-emancipation wrong. Their continued desire to expose the barbarism masquerading as civilization that is the carceral state evinces that they have been resurrected. Indeed, like Christ on the third day, they have risen.
Barbarity Continues Unabated
True to form, St. Louis Corrections Commissioner Dale Glass continues to deny the legitimacy of detainees’ grievances claiming that they are not being mistreated. Such contentions come on the heels of recent reports that, Demeria Thomas, a former guard at the Justice Center allegedly orchestrated the vicious beating of a detainee that resulted in the man’s jaw being broken by two other inmates. I perennially received accounts of the savage treatment of detainees by jail officials in the aftermath of the February 6th jail uprising.
Detainees suspected of being involved in the February rebellion have been forbidden phone usage, medical treatment, showers, personal hygiene products, and legal documents pertaining to their pending cases. The 5th floor of the Justice Center was designated for administrative segregation (the hole). Those identified as participants in the rebellion were moved there, pepper sprayed, and brutalized for weeks.
Mayor Lyda Krewson’s Task Force employed to investigate conditions at the jail following the first major rebellion was refused access to investigate the 5th floor. This exposed how much a farce the body of misleaders tapped by the mayor were and that their task was to pacify, not ameliorate with respect to conditions at the jail.
Criminal Justice Power Brokers Bury Their Heads in the Sand
Those with arguably the most power in the criminal punishment system, prosecutors, have disregarded information detailing ongoing abuse at the jail at bond hearings. Individual Assistant Circuit Attorneys, in an effort that appeared to be coordinated from the office’s leadership due to its uniformity, declare that such information is mere hearsay. However, many of the State’s cases are predicated upon scuttlebutt alone and yet this is enough to keep the accused in cages.
Judges, when presented with inmates’ accounts regarding the conditions at the Justice Center, have asked for defense attorneys to present video and other information that can only be obtained through public information requests to the government that is notorious for stonewalling such requests. These same judges rarely question the state when cases come before them with flimsy or nonexistent evidence.
Kim Gardner: Opposer of Institutional Racism or Administrator of Institutional Racism?
In the wake of the detainee’s rebellion, Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner was one of the first public officials to proclaim that she was launching an “independent investigation” into what was happening at the jail. Since that time, she has appeared on 60 Minutes projecting her phantom fight against institutional racism in the hierarchy of the St. Louis Police Officer Association while presiding over the mass incarceration of hundreds of inmates, a majority of who are poor and Black.
Apparently, she fights racism by sustaining it. Her anti-racism is counterfeit and is primarily based on her social identity as a Black woman, not her deeds. Her office has yet to find any criminality among Black misleaders who orchestrate the abuse of inmates from their administrative posts. Instead she pretends to be fighting a white racial state as more Black people are elected to government posts in St. Louis. This should be odious to anyone with any ethics or values to speak of regardless of race.
COVID-19 Pandemic and Unrest at the City Justice Center
In the aftermath of both Justice Center insurrections that grabbed national media attention, bureaucrats have unceasingly pointed to the COVID-19 pandemic as a primary reason for the rumblings and angst at the jail. The pandemic was not the cause, but it certainly did not help ameliorate the existing conditions that ultimately led to the eruptions at the jail. Well before the pandemic, detainees have been warehoused for years at a time as they await trial. They have been denied basic necessities such as nutritious food, adequate recreation, and freedom from ruthless abuse. The pandemic merely aided in the peeling back of the band-aid placed over a gaping wound, exposing a gruesome and dismal reality.
Arriving on Our Own Authority, Bringing the New Society Closer
While Easter passed with the annual handing out of chocolates and references to bunnies, the counter-procession of the prisoners bearing their crosses as they are everlastingly maligned remind us what “the last week” was all about. Will the oppressed rise again from blood splattered degradation? Detainees have been left for dead and risen twice. When will people outside the prison rise?
Many organizations, institutions, and personalities claim to represent justice. Most are compensated to play charades that they are guardians of ordinary people as they contain our better instincts. When the prisoners move under great adversity, under grave consequences that imperial mayors, prosecutors, and judges are not even permitted to “discover,” we are reminded what is required as they lay more eggs. The further breaking up of the old world so we can arrive at a new beginning. That is what the Easter season truly promises.
No attempt to explain, evade, or excuse from those in hierarchical government will suppress the permanent slaughter that is ongoing at the jail. The efforts to paper over the depravity of the carceral state with recommendations from a phony task force sponsored by the government did not prevail this time. The self-emancipating activity of detainees has done more in two months to expose the bankruptcy of the municipal government than phony prison reform activists who speak of a “new Jim Crow” have done in a decade. When ordinary people arrive on their own authority the new society in embryo comes into sharper focus for those with vision.
Adofo Minka is a criminal defense attorney and St. Louis native. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.