St. Louis begins tracking inmate overdoses after avoiding questions

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ST. LOUIS – There is a major policy change at the St. Louis City Justice Center, something the city confirmed the day before a FOX Files investigation into overdoses at the jail.

On Oct. 26, the FOX Files asked the St. Louis Department of Public Safety (DPS) how many inmates overdosed and the number of people who died while in jail.

A spokesman for DPS turned over in-custody death numbers but did not share how many inmates overdosed and survived.

Days turned into weeks, but DPS never shared the statistics, despite multiple follow-up emails.

DPS notified the media of multiple medical emergencies that happened on Nov. 3, but there was no mention of drugs being involved.

On Nov. 20, more than three weeks after our original request, the FOX Files requested an interview with St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones or Corrections Commissioner Jennifer Clemmons-Abdullah about the city’s failure to share overdose numbers.

With DPS not providing information, the FOX Files went to the St. Louis Fire Department. A spokesman confirmed that between Oct. 15 and Nov. 15, EMS responded to eight overdose calls.

We told Rev. Darryl Gray, chairman of the Detention Facilities Oversight Board, about our road block and he agreed to ask the Corrections Commissioner about overdoses during a jail tour that happened on Tuesday.

“We have an alarming number of overdoses in the facility,” Gray said. “We had an opportunity to approach it, but not in any detail.”

Even Gray can’t get a simple answer to the question.

“Listen, we’ve had trouble getting information the last 18 months,” Gray said.

On the same day the Oversight Board toured the jail, after five weeks of the FOX Files pressing for answers about overdoses, the city broke its silence.

The day before this story would be published, a DPS spokesman said the city just recently started to track non-fatal overdoses that occur in the City Justice Center.

As for when the jail began tracking that data, the city wouldn’t say.

A spokesman did say that the jail’s health contractor monitors each time Narcan, a drug that reverses an overdose, is used. The city did not have that information readily available to share with us.

St. Louis Alderman Rasheen Aldridge (Ward 14), who is on the Public Safety Committee, posted his concerns on social media several hours after the FOX Files told him about the back and forth we had with the city surrounding overdoses.

“I like the jail commissioner personally, but when it comes to accountability and actions to improve the CJC, I don’t have faith she is the best person for the job,” Aldridge said.

While the FOX Files requested an interview with the mayor, her team pointed us to DPS for information.


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