St. Louis aldermen advance jail oversight bill

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Legislation to set up a permanent panel to investigate jail complaints has been advanced by the board of Aldermen Tuesday.

It was proposed more than eight months after several disturbances at the city’s Justice Center downtown.

A bill to repeal city ordinances that make it illegal to possess 35 grams or less of marijuana has also been passed by the board.

The board also voted to extend the city’s indoor mask mandate for another 30 days.

Meanwhile, a judge in Jefferson City issued a ruling invalidating local coronavirus health orders.

The jail oversight measure received first-round approval with a margin of 12-7.

Alderman Joe Vaccaro from 23rd Ward said an independent panel to investigate complaints about the jail conditions is necessary.

He said the nine-member Detention Facility Oversight Board is needed.

The panel doesn’t have the authority to discipline jail employees. But it can update the board about the incidents there.

Though some aldermen supported the intent behind the bill, they voted against it. They said they wanted to delay action until Mayor Tishaura O. Jones’ administration finishes drafting a companion measure.

A corrections task force appointed by then-Mayor Lyda Krewson recommended the jail oversight panel in March last year. The decision was taken following some issues at the downtown jail.

While participating in the debate Tuesday, Vaccaro pointed out several troubling incidents in city jails.

Vaccaro also narrated an incident of a young woman who had killed herself in jail. The woman, who was arrested, had a bipolar condition. She allegedly killed herself after the jail employees failed to give proper medication.

Vaccaro said that the incident occurred four years ago. Vaccaro’s speech gave members the importance of initiating action regarding jail soon in order to avoid such tragic incidents in the future.

The marijuana bill intends to repeal the municipal ordinances. It also bars police from enforcing state and federal laws against the possession of small amounts or of marijuana paraphernalia. However, there are provisions for certain exceptions.

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