The troubled St. Louis County Jail has been rocked by scandal in recent years, including inmate deaths, accusations of excessive tassing and mistreatment of inmates, and leadership changes amid accusations of location of toxic work. It appears that many of these problems persist and are believed to be the fault of a “family” of St. Louis County jail administrators who are obstructing the reform of the facility.
In May, Phillip Duvall resigned from the St. Louis County Justice Services Advisory Board – the third board member to do so in 14 months – saying “the family” was blocking the board’s efforts to hold the wrongdoers to account. prison actors.
Another person closely involved with the prison described “the family” as a “rump group” of employees interested in preserving power and blocking the reform efforts of St. Louis County Justice Department Director Scott Anders, and the advisory board.
A lawyer, who has sued the prison on behalf of inmates in the past, called the family a “power clique” all about protecting their jobs.
“They are above all responsibility. No discipline is inflicted on them”, declares this lawyer to the RFT. “It’s like the way the mafia has protection rackets. It’s like an internal protection racket, where if you’re in that group, you’re internally protected from discipline.”
Duvall provided more details on how ‘the family’ enables inmate abuse and how, on at least one occasion, protected a guard who scheduled guards to work shifts during times when the guard planned to sleep. with their wives.
Naked inmate tasered nine times
When Kimberly Caves picked up her son Cameron from the county jail on July 12 last year, she immediately noticed the burn marks all over his body. He had burns behind his ear, on his back and arms. The burns came in pairs from the Taser tips. “Almost like snake bites,” Kimberly says. They documented the injuries with photos.
Cameron, 27, had spent about two weeks in St. Louis County Jail after being arrested by Florissant police for stalking. Caves says his son has schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
When Caves asked his son how he got burned, he said he had been in jail for about a week when on July 9, due to an episode of mental health, he was sent to the medical ward. He was stripped naked and then tasered a dozen times by prison staff.
Outraged, Caves emailed and wrote letters to everyone she could about what happened, from then-Director of Justice Services Doug Burris to the executive of the county, Sam Page, to U.S. Congresswoman Cori Bush (D-St. Louis).
“What prison didn’t count on was my son having a mother who didn’t care,” Caves told the RFT.
In August, Caves met with Burris, who had been told by “family” members that Florissant police were the ones who tasered Cameron. This is the story he told Caves.
Caves didn’t buy it. Why would her son lie to her about who tasered him? The prison has also been accused of using a Taser on detained inmates in 2020.
Later, a prison representative said the same thing to Caves in a voicemail message shared with the RFT.
“These nine marks on your son’s back wouldn’t have come from us,” the rep said. “On July 20, when your son was arrested by Florissant police, they tasered him… Those nine Taser marks you were describing all over your son’s body most likely came from the Florissant PD.”
Caves first saw the marks on his son’s body on July 12, but the prison claimed they were from an arrest eight days later.
To complicate matters, Cameron had been arrested a second time by Florissant police on July 20 and a Taser was used during that arrest, but it wasn’t enough to cause injuries all over Cameron’s body, and this also happened a week. and a half too late to be a valid explanation.
Caves continued to reach out to anyone she thought might be able to help and eventually reached out to Duvall, who was then a member of the Justice Services Advisory Council.
Duvall says some of the personnel who tasered Cameron were “family” members, and the fact that the administration would blame another law enforcement agency for their wrongdoing shows how “the family” will protect his own.
He and attorney Mark Pedroli collected Florissant police dash cam and body camera video that accounted for the entirety of Cameron’s two arrests. At no time was Cameron tasered during the first arrest, Duvall said. Florissant therefore cannot be blamed for the injuries to Cameron’s body that Caves saw on July 12.
When Duvall describes the video of the second arrest carried out by Florissant on July 20, he describes a man who seems traumatized.
“I give them congratulations on this arrest,” Duvall said. “They were very patient. [but] Cameron would not comply. When they started giving him instructions, he saw the officer pull out the Taser and [Cameron] started shouting, ‘Don’t taser me and beat me. Please don’t beat me. “”
In the end, the police tasered Cameron. “Once, maybe twice,” Duvall says, remembering the video he watched.
Two weeks after the July 20 arrest on August 4, Cameron was still locked up in the St. Louis County Jail and was twice shocked by correctional officers.
In September, Burris retired as prison warden and was replaced by Scott Anders.
Duvall encouraged the new director to look into Cameron’s Tasting incident. When Anders did, he was told by “family” members that they investigated the corrections officers who tasered Cameron and found that those officers acted appropriately. There were even papers to prove it.
However, the investigation had focused on the August 4 incident when Cameron was shocked twice. Officially, the Tasing incident in July had not taken place.
“His wounds and wounds were from a month prior,” Duvall said. “They complicated everything.”
Essentially, according to Duvall, “the family” told two separate lies to two different prison wardens. First, they told Burris that Cameron’s injuries were from Florissant police. Second, they told Anders that Caves’ July letter referred to an incident the following month, one that the prison had reviewed and found to involve no wrongdoing.
However, the lies were exposed in the fall when Pedroli, the lawyer who helped Duvall obtain the Florissant police arrest footage, sued for access to the surveillance video of the jail at the time of the alleged July 9 attack.
On September 22, Pedroli, Caves and a prison official viewed surveillance video of the July incident.
The video showed several guards outside a cell firing Tasers at Cameron inside.
“In the video you could see they were shooting him with a taser through the food slot,” Pedroli told the RFT. “They lit it pretty badly.”
Pedroli says Cameron was shocked multiple times while locked in a cell.
Caves acknowledges that her son refused to comply with the corrections officers’ order to leave, but she believes their use of force was grossly disproportionate.
“There were maybe a dozen people outside, and they all went up to him,” she said. “You can pretty much infer that’s where he got all those Taser marks from, all coming at him at once.”
“When I saw that, my heart just wanted to break,” adds Caves, saying the way they treated Cameron, “you would have thought he was a murderer.”
Duvall says that despite photographic evidence of Cameron’s burns and video evidence that corrections officers lied to the prison service, he still hasn’t been able to hold anyone to account. There was no way to do it because Duvall says they were “part of ‘the family'”.
“He knew the husband was going to be at work”
One of the strangest abuses of power, Duvall said, fostered family involved a high-ranking prison guard using his planning authority to sleep with the wives of several subordinates.
“He knew the husbands were going to be at work,” Duvall says. “He would make sure the male officers were at work and he would connect with their wives.”
Duvall says when he first heard the story, he thought it was just “tabloid trash”.
But then this supervisor fathered a child with one of the subordinate’s wives, breaking up the marriage. The husband reported the supervisor, but there was no investigation or repercussions because the supervisor was part of “the family”.
“To imagine [the guard] now working under the guardianship of a man who broke up his marriage,” Duvall says.