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State auditor looking at St. Louis jail, says conditions 'warrant intense scrutiny'

ST. LOUIS — The state auditor is taking steps to make sure serious complaints about conditions inside St. Louis’ jail are “investigated to the fullest extent possible,” he said Thursday.

State Sen. Steve Roberts requested in a letter on Wednesday that the auditor investigate the City Justice Center, prompted by reports of chaos in the jail and calls for its director to resign.

Roberts told the Post-Dispatch that one of his constituents alerted him to problems in the jail, citing poor medical care, detainees going months without showers and other issues.

State Auditor Scott Fitzpatrick said in a statement that the allegations about the St. Louis City Justice Center are “extremely concerning and warrant intense scrutiny.” His office is collecting information to determine next steps.

Roberts questioned city leadership, saying it had a “blatant disregard for transparency and accountability” in his letter to the state auditor.

He told the Post-Dispatch that, of all the government offices with authority over the city jail, the state auditor’s office is the ideal agency to investigate, because fiscal matters might provide some transparency into the facility’s operations. He also backed the effort of the city’s civilian Detention Facilities Oversight Board.

“The resistance to transparency from City Hall regarding municipal jails is profoundly troubling and raises serious questions regarding city leadership’s commitment to upholding the law and serving the public interest,” said Roberts. “The residents of St. Louis deserve a thorough and unvarnished account of the dire situation within our city jail, and it is imperative that we take immediate and decisive action to rectify the failures that have brought us to this critical juncture.”

Advocates rally outside the City Justice Center in St. Louis for better conditions and transparency in recent jail deaths.

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