Mayor, congresswoman appalled by St. Louis jail conditions

“Ultimately, people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect,” said Mayor Tishaura Jones.

ST. LOUIS – St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones, US Representative Cori Bush, and other city guides spent hours touring the City Justice Center downtown and then the medium security prison in North City.

“We were disappointed, shocked and frustrated with what we saw,” said Jones.

“We wanted to have access to see what was actually happening so we could actually make changes,” said Bush, the Congresswoman for District 1 of Missouri, which includes St. Louis City and much of northern St. Louis County.

Inmates’ families and activists have raised concerns about prison conditions.

“We spoke to inmates at both facilities,” said Jones.

Most recently there were two riots in the city’s justice center, one in February and one in early April.

City and federal leaders say conditions in the 55-year-old medium security prison are the worst of the two.

During their tour, they said they saw mold-infested sinks in the cells of the non-violent detainees, feces on the floor and cockroaches rampant.

They shared pictures with 5 On Your Side.

“The filth. The garbage. The bugs. There are people in the workhouse who say that when we get the food every day, the food gets so cold that we don’t even know what it is,” said Rep. Bush.

There are currently more than 300 inmates in the intermediate security prison on the 7600 block of Hall Street.

“This is someone’s father, someone’s mother, someone’s brother who lives here. Ultimately, people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect,” Jones said.

Jones’ predecessor, Mayor Lyda Krewson, spent at least $ 5 million upgrading the facility, including the HVAC system, bathrooms, and creating single cells instead of double bunks.

“I’m angry because we told the city for three years that injustices regularly happen behind these walls,” said Kayla Reed, executive director of Action St. Louis.

Jones says the inmates have lived in “deplorable conditions” for decades and she promises to clean them up.

Earlier this week, the mayor said she hoped the changes would start this spring.

In the meantime, she vows to close the workhouse.

“I’m committed to the budget we put in place to zero funding for the workhouse,” said Jones.

The mayor’s budget suggested closing the medium security prison sometime next year.

Even after the millions of dollars the previous government spent upgrading the prison, Jones insists the workhouse is still not worth saving.

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