Jail talks
5:33 pm
Wed March 2, 2011

Negotiations on jail oversight break down

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The St. Louis City Justice Center

Talks between the American Civil Liberties Union and the city of St. Louis on an independent panel to oversee the city's jails have stalled.

The talks were prompted by a 2009 ACLU report that alleged abuse and medical neglect at the city's Medium Security Institution (more commonly known as the city workhouse) and at the higher-security City Justice Center.

Both sides are optimistic they can establish an external panel. "Both parties are interested in making sure that we have a jail environment that is mindful of the constitutional rights of inmates," says corrections commissioner Gene Stubblefield. But they diverge on how close the two sides were to an agreement.

John Chasnoff, of the ACLU, says the sides had agreed on the powers the panel would have.

"We wanted to see if have very ready access to the jails, so that they could observe the facilities on short notice, and we also wanted to make sure that they had ready access to inmates who might have complaints of one kind or another and that there was a mechanism set up where the inmates could talk freely," he says.

Commissioner Stubblefield says deep philosophical differences about the proposal remained.

"It talks about being able to come inside the jail at liberty, and quite a few other things that would just probably be disruptive to the facilities," he says.

Both sides agree the talks broke down in July 2010.