One inmate told his attorneys that he’d gotten so hungry in St. Francois County Jail that he was reduced to eating toothpaste wrapped in toilet paper.
A recently-filed class action lawsuit has issued a blistering condemnation of the purportedly “appalling and inhumane conditions” in Missouri’s St. Francois County Jail.
According to KSDK.com, the lawsuit was filed earlier this month by ArchCity Defenders, the Simon Law Firm, and attorneys Vonne Karraker and Vincent Coliani. Collectively, they are representing an assortment of current and former inmates.
The lawsuit names as defendants St. Francois County, Sheriff Dan Bullock, and Correctional Healthcare, Inc., alongside several current and former detention center officials.
In the complaint, attorneys allege that their three clients—along with several other, unnamed people—endured conditions so grossly unregulated as to be illegal. Complaints were reportedly met with inaction at best and crude retaliation at worst.
By and large, the lawsuit claims that St. Francois County Jail staff were “deliberately indifferent” to the negligence surrounding them, with some employees making deliberate decisions to ignore detainees’ medical needs and safety concerns.
Robert Hopple, one of the plaintiffs, told ArchCity Defenders that he and his cellmate were once reduced to eating toothpaste and toilet paper.
“The treatment of every inmate by the guards was very bad,” Hopple said in an audio recording, which ArchCity Defenders has since distributed to various new networks. “Inhumane, the way they treat you, like a dog […] I’ve heard it called “hell” a few times.”
“The only thing I can think to call it,” he added, is “the worst place in the world to be.”
Hopple, like the other plaintiffs, was awaiting trial—in other words, he had not yet been convicted of a crime.
Other inmates recount suffering substantial weight loss, insomnia, and assaults while detained in St. Francois County Jail.
Alongside facing the guards’ indifference, detainees purportedly lived in squalid conditions: the lawsuit makes note of black mold, basic medical facilities, and unregulatable shower water so hot female prisoners could use it to brew instant coffee.
“These conditions, which have been exposed and brought before St. Francois County officials repeatedly over the years by detainees, in media reports, and through litigation, violate basic standards of human decency as well as the United States Constitution,” the lawsuit charges.
“It is completely inconceivable,” said ArchCity Defenders attorney Corrigan Lewis, “that the actions of St. Francois County officials have been able to go unchecked in such a pervasive and systemic manner for so long. It is time to hold them accountable and we hope this lawsuit begins the process of justice and healing in this community.”