Without A/C, inmates at St. Louis jail scream for help during heat wave

ST. LOUIS – As temperatures in St. Louis soar toward triple digits, people working and playing across the metro area must find ways to cope with the blistering heat. But the inmates at the Medium Security Institution are at the mercy of Mother Nature.

The facility, built in 1966, can house over 1,100 inmates. Only a few sections of the institution are air conditioned, meaning staffers routinely work in hot spaces. The inmates must rely on vented windows for air circulation.

On Tuesday, reporter Elliott Davis shot video from outside the building in which you can hear several inmates screaming for help. Davis was later asked to leave the property.

Most of the inmates housed at the Medium Security Institution have not been convicted of a crime; they are awaiting trial and many simply cannot post bail.

According to Davis, staffers and newly released inmates have described awful conditions.

Davis spoke with a woman visiting her grandson at the facility. She said her grandson told her the temperature in the prisoner pods were 109 degrees. That claim could not be independently verified. For her part, the woman said the conditions inside the workhouse seemed inhumane.

A spokesman for Mayor Lyda Krewson said staffers provide inmates with juice and ice several times a day to keep them cool.

Davis requested a tour of the workhouse to inspect conditions within and possibly talk to inmates. That request was denied. A city said they receive several requests for tours—from aldermen and others—but cannot handle such requests on an individual basis. In the meantime, officials said they would eventually arrange a group tour of the workhouse.

When Davis asked if such a tour could be arranged before this heat wave hits the city, a spokesperson for the mayor said it would be unlikely.