A third former inmate has filed suit against the city of St. Louis and the sheriff's office — alleging that he too was held in the city's Workhouse for days after he should have been released.
Attorney Elad Gross filed the lawsuit on behalf of Kenneth Dickerson Jr. The 41-year-old St. Louis resident was serving a one-year sentence on a pair of misdemeanors when his release date in April 2017 came and went. He began to agitate, telling every corrections officer who passed his cell that he needed to be let out.
But, the suit says, they not only failed to act on his complaints, but one lieutenant actually threatened to put him in “the hole,” or isolated confinement, if he kept pushing his case. It took Dickerson pleading to a caseworker and the work of his public defender to get him released, the suit suggests — four days after his sentence ended.
Gross believes it's part of a practice, and he is building a growing body of evidence to that end. Dickerson's lawsuit, in fact, is the third such suit he's filed against the city and the sheriff's office in five months.
Last September, Gross filed suit on behalf of a woman named Destiny Payne, who was held in the notoriously hellish Workhouse for fifteen days after prosecutors dropped the charges against her. And two weeks ago, he sued on behalf of electrical engineer Charles Lewis, who was held eight days after prosecutors dropped charges
Dickerson's case is different than the others in that the charges against him were not dropped. As the suit explains, he was serving a year's sentence, and did in fact serve it. The complication came in that his jailers believed he also had a warrant after having his probation revoked. But a judge had quashed the warrant months earlier — news that apparently failed to reach the jail.
Gregg Christian, a spokesman for Sheriff Vernon Betts, says the problems are not the fault of the sheriff's office: "The Sheriff is committed to making sure that the rights of anyone who is detained are respected, but the Sheriff’s Department in the City of St. Louis is not responsible for detaining and housing any prisoners. The Department only is responsible for their transportation from City Department of Corrections facilities to the courts and back."
Koran Addo, a spokesman for Mayor Lyda Krewson, said the city would have no comment on pending litigation.
A former assistant attorney general, Gross stumbled onto the case involving Payne after he was assigned to be her public defender — and learned she had been released from jail without any explanation that she'd been held too long. He has since sought out others in similar situations, hoping to right the wrong he's identified.
"Certainly this is a major problem in the city of St. Louis," he says. "I'd love to know who's responsible for it."
He's horrified that the multiple lawsuits haven't led to the problem being addressed. He says he's since become aware of yet another case, one that just happened last week. "It's still happening," he says. "Even with these lawsuits, it's still happening."
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