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St. Louis Jail Director Resigns After Pressure From City Officials, Activists

St. Louis Corrections Commissioner Dale Glass speaks about the living conditions at the City Justice Center during a press conference on Feb. 8, 2021.
Kayla Drake
St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis Corrections Commissioner Dale Glass announced he plans to resign from his position on Wednesday, after a tumultuous year. Glass has held the position since 2012.

St. Louis Corrections Commissioner Dale Glass will resign from his position on June 1, following months of criticism over the management and condition of the city's jails.

Glass' resignation, announced Wednesday in a statement from the mayor's office, came as little surprise to city politicians and criminal justice activists.

“Failed leadership overseeing the city’s Corrections division has left the city with a huge mess to clean up,” Mayor Tishuara Jones said in a statement. “Between failing locks, lackluster maintenance, and subhuman conditions for the detainees under our care, it only further justifies my promise to shut down the Workhouse within my first 100 days.”

Multiple protests have occurred inside the City Justice Center during the pandemic over complaints about jail conditions and delayed trials — many people there have been waiting months for courts to process their cases. In two separate uprisings at the downtown jail this year, detainees broke out of their cells, smashed jail windows and set fires.

Glass, a former deputy warden of the Missouri Department of Corrections facility in Pacific, was appointed to the corrections commissioner job in 2012 by former Mayor Francis Slay.

Glass announced last month plans to move detainees from the Justice Center to the Medium Security Institution, known as the Workhouse, after people held at the jail damaged multiple cell units during the uprisings. But that move by Glass also provoked the ire of activists who have campaigned for years to close the jail.

Jones says she expects to close the Workhouse by this July, fulfilling a campaign promise.

“We look forward to bringing effective leadership into the corrections division that can account for these issues and raise the bar on effective management and oversight of the City Justice Center,” Jones said.

In a press release, the mayor’s office said Glass was not asked to resign. He's currently on vacation leave, the mayor’s spokesperson said, and has not responded to interview requests.

In a media conference the morning after the latest uprising in April, Glass pointed to activist support and news coverage for “emboldening” detainees to break out of their cells. He insisted jail conditions and COVID-19 precautions were up to par.

But after a recent visit to the Justice Center in April from Jones, U.S. Rep. Cori Bush, D-St. Louis County, and Action St. Louis Executive Director Kayla Reed pushed back on Glass’ statements.

“What we witnessed in those jails was unsafe, inhumane, and tragic,” Bush said in a statement. “Transforming our approach to public safety in St. Louis has been long overdue, and the mayor’s bold and early leadership on this issue has been exemplary. We share a commitment to reducing harm in our communities and ending the cycles of trauma that have caused far too many of our neighbors to be locked up in our city’s jails.”

The Rev. Darryl Gray, who chairs the St. Louis Corrections Task Force, an oversight board formed to examine jail conditions, has previously called for Glass to resign and for city leaders to restructure jail management.

‘New era’ in St. Louis corrections

The mayor’s office isn’t waiting for a new corrections commissioner to move ahead with improvements at city jails.

The No. 1 priority for St. Louis Interim Public Safety Director Dan Isom, who oversees the city jails, is to close the Workhouse, he said.

Isom hopes to open the job posting next week and launch a national search for St. Louis’ next corrections commissioner.

“Having new leadership over there is something that will set the groundwork for a new era over there,” he said. “And I think that is good for the city, good for employees, good for detainees.”

City leadership is looking for experienced candidates who are community centered and innovative. Candidates who will “provide assistance and support to [detainees] during the short time that they're there to help improve their lives,” Isom said.

The city jail population is currently 660, a decrease of nearly 300 inmates from the day former Mayor Lyda Krewson left office. Isom said the decrease is a result of jury trials resuming and federal detainees being moved elsewhere.

Follow Kayla on Twitter: @_kayladrake

Kayla is a general assignment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.