On Thursday, St. Louis City officials opened the doors of the Workhouse for members of the media to inspect. The Workhouse, more formally known as the St. Louis Medium Security Institution, has been the subject of complaints, protests, and a lawsuit.
“I believe it is important that the City of St. Louis is always transparent,” said Judge Jimmie Edwards, St. Louis Public Safety Director.
Edwards and Commissioner for Division of Corrections Dale Glass took reporters inside the Workhouse
“While the Medium Security Institution is an old building, it is, indeed, a functional building,” Edwards said.
Last summer, protesters complaining of jail conditions were pepper-sprayed, and a lawsuit against the jail was also filed.
The facility, built in 1966, can house over 1,100 inmates. At present, close to 550 people are housed there. Over 70 of those inmates are women.
Officials insisted nothing was done to polish the facility prior to the tour.
“What you see this is what it is,” Glass said. “We take great pride in making sure that it's clean. That the inmates are treated humanely.”
The Workhouse smelled clean inside, and officials showed reporters a special baking program on-site. Some inmates have later found jobs as bakers at local businesses. For the most part, inmates appeared content as content as one could be in a jail.
Reporters were then shown the gym and medical care facility, where one inmate complained of vermin and insect bites right in front of the judge and commissioner.
“I don’t try to discourage them from saying whatever they want to say,” Glass said. “What my responsibility is, is to make sure it’s not true and we do that.”
He said the air conditioning problem won’t be solved for at least the next two summers. In the meantime, the facility will rent portable units for hot days. Glass said he didn’t have the money for a permanent solution unless voters pass a bond issue this summer.