The tab for taxpayers keeps rising at St. Louis’ The Workhouse
ST. LOUIS – Over the past five years, St. Louisans have spent nearly $ 7 million upgrading one of their prisons called The Workhouse – and residents may soon pay more to close it.
The biggest parts of the improvements are:
- Approximately $ 1.6 million for new HVAC equipment on pods and administrative buildings, including electrical upgrades and cabling
- $ 1.7 million for a security camera recording system
- Over $ 918,000 in shower, sink, and toilet renovations
- Approximately $ 605,000 for shower upgrades
- Approximately $ 490,000 for electrical upgrades
Other improvements included new washing machines, dryers, replacing wire fences, wiring for commissioners’ machines in the residential units, replacing tiles in the kitchen, an ice machine, upgrading sliding doors, removing and replacing bunk beds, standard baking devices for the baking program, temporary air conditioning, roof repairs as well Fire detector inspection and repairs.
Most of the money on the upgrades – about $ 6 million – has been spent since 2018.
That year, ArchCity Defenders filed a class action lawsuit against the city on behalf of inmates alleging inhumane conditions in prison.
City lawyers have cited the millions of dollars the city has spent on upgrades and improvements as evidence that the issues have been fixed according to the filing.
Still, ArchCity Defenders has asked for $ 10 million to settle the case.
One of its board members, Kayla Reed, joined Mayor Tishaura Jones, Congressman Cori Bush and Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner on a tour of the facility on April 24th.
The women – including Reed – told reporters that the prison remains inhuman after their tour.
And Jones reiterated her election promise to close it.
On her first day in office, she proposed a budget that should close on July 1st.
Her new chief policy advisor, Nahuel Fefer, is also a former Justice Catalyst Fellow for ArchCity Defenders.
In emails, Fefer was one of the organizers of the mayors’ tour and also attended it.
The mayor’s comments, along with the others, confirmed some of the law firm’s allegations of inhumane conditions at the facility.
The women said they saw cockroaches, dirt, and trash, and inmates were served cold meals.
If the St. Louis Board of Aldermen approves Jones’ budget proposal and The Workhouse closes on July 1, a substantial part of the lawsuit could be up for debate.
Lawyers often charge fees when what they tried to achieve by filing a lawsuit is done otherwise.
In that case, ArchCity Defenders could go to a judge and say the city voluntarily closed the facility should the Board of Alderman accept Jones’ budget and close The Workhouse.
If the judge believes the lawsuit caused the closure, ArchCity Defenders could ask for legal fees.
And how much that will cost taxpayers remains to be seen.
But Jones made it clear in her budget proposal, the prison tour and her election promise that it is costs that she is willing to pay.