St. Louis today closes its 75-year-old police “holdover,” its chipped green walls covered with graffiti memorializing decades of misery, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. It is being replaced by a new Justice Center across the street. With more than 40,000 arrests in the city per year, police believe there have been more than 3 million bookings. The numbers translate to millions of bologna sandwiches, a staple for many years.
Infamous inmates range from locals like Bonnie Brown Heady and Carl Austin Hall, the couple executed for the Bobby Greenlease kidnapping, to national names like ex-heavyweight boxing champ Sonny Liston (who served time for robbery) and a small-time local hoodlum named James Earl Ray, who assassinated Martin Luther King Jr. In between came thousands upon thousands of petty crooks, wife beaters, burglars, thieves, prostitutes, loiterers, drug dealers, drifters, murderers, and military prisoners.
The holdover was built to hold 468 prisoners, but the latest capacity is about 200 in increasingly dismal surroundings. Adding a new processing and holdover section was a major component of a $9 million addition to a new jail. Its construction marked a milestone that helped the city get out from under federal court supervision of overcrowded facilities that included the holdover. Frank Susman, a lawyer who represented prisoners, described the place as “a pit.” Yesterday, the odor of urine permeated the halls. “A lot of dirty people and dirty clothes come through here,” said an officer.