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Tuesday, June 18, 2024 | Back issues
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ACLU Sues St. Louis for Info on Jails

ST. LOUIS (CN) - The ACLU claims St. Louis violated the Missouri Sunshine Law by refusing to turn over public records on inmate grievances.

The ACLU asked a City Court judge to order the city to deliver the records.

The request stems from a 2009 ACLU report about inmate treatment at the city's two jails. The report alleged assaults, sexual harassment, medical neglect and cover-ups.

It prompted discussions between the ACLU and city corrections officials about establishing better oversight. But the discussions fell apart last year after corrections officials claimed that the ACLU sought a level of oversight far beyond national guidelines.

ACLU legal director Anthony Rothert said the group submitted its first freedom of information request for the records on Sept. 27, 2011, to try to restart the conversation.

"We're trying to figure out whether there's any meaningful grievance process in place," Rather told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "The fact that they are unable to even follow the simple protocol of the Sunshine Law has us really concerned about what's going on down there."

In its complaint, the ACLU says it asked for the information again on Oct. 31 and on Nov. 4, Public Safety Director Charles Bryson responded that the information was on its way.

But apparently it wasn't. The ACLU warned the city on Nov. 28 that it would take legal action if the documents weren't provided by Dec. 7, but received no response.

City Counselor Patti Hageman responded to the lawsuit in a statement released to the Post-Dispatch.

"The City Counselor's office is not in infrequent contact with Mr. Castoff," Hageman said. "We would have hoped that he would have picked up the phone or contacted the law department instead of filing a lawsuit over a simple misunderstanding."

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