St. Louis “Workhouse” Inmates Sue Over Conditions


For nearly two decades, St. Louis’s jail and its medium-security counterpart, known as the workhouse, operated under court supervision after inmates said overcrowding was so severe that their constitutional rights were violated, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The case was closed in 2000 after the city built a new main jail and razed the old one. Now, six workhouse detainees have filed a new suit over conditions there, arguing that they are kept in cramped quarters for long periods with no time for outdoor recreation. Sam Simon, city director of public safety, said, “We’re not aware of any overcrowding issues.” The lockup inherited its workhouse name from an earlier jail where inmates had to labor at a rock quarry. It has 1,029 beds, and the number of prisoners on Tuesday was 996.

Inmates say that in their dormitory, there are 62 beds but 68 to 72 detainees. The suit, submitted in handwriting, says male prisoners have no outdoor exercise and are allowed just two hours a week of indoor recreation in a room 16 feet by 26 feet, while females can use the “yard.” The suit complains of inadequate heating and ventilation, food that is “half cooked” and subject to contamination, and inadequate health care.


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