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Majority of St. Louis aldermen support closing workhouse, advocates say

Majority of St. Louis aldermen support closing workhouse, advocates say

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The Medium Security Institiution is also called The Workhouse

A view of the Medium Security Institution on Thursday, August 8, 2019. The prison, which was built in 1966, also is called the workhouse. (J.B. Forbes, jforbes@post-dispatch.com)

ST. LOUIS — Fourteen of the city’s 27 current members of the Board of Aldermen now support closing the medium-security jail commonly referred to as the city workhouse, advocates of shutting the facility said Tuesday.

The Close the Workhouse campaign made the announcement as it continued its efforts to get city officials to delete money for the Hall Street facility as they work on a proposed city budget for the fiscal year beginning July.

The proposed budget now under review calls for workhouse spending to drop next year to $8.8 million from $16 million due to reductions in inmate counts.

Critics who want to close the workhouse say conditions there are inhumane, and that many pretrial detainees held there could be released on bail or held at the city’s newer jail downtown.

“We are at a crossroads, and the people of this city are demanding that we end our reliance on failed systems and begin investing deeply in our communities,” said Blake Strode, executive director of ArchCity Defenders, which is active in the campaign.

Mayor Lyda Krewson and Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards say the workhouse has been improved in recent years and is still needed.

An aldermanic budget panel has asked the Board of Estimate and Apportionment, the city’s top fiscal body, to consider changes on unrelated issues.

The full Board of Aldermen has yet to take up the budget, which must be passed by the end of the month. Two vacancies on the board will be filled in a special election next week.

The 14 members, while a majority of the current 27, still would fall short of the minimum needed to pass a bill. That's 15, a majority of the full membership.

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