St. Louis' Medium Security Institution (MSI) located on Hall St., locally referred to as "The Workhouse" is home to some extremely deplorable conditions. Facts have surfaced about inmates being forced to participate in "Gladiator Fights" in order to earn meals, guards exchanging food and personal items for sex with inmates, and guards purposely placing inmates of rival gangs in the same cell in order to rid themselves of "problem prisoners".
Furthermore, the facility itself is a health hazard for everyone inside. The building has asbestos, lead pipes and paint, and poor ventilation; a combination that could easily result in a grocery list of health problems for anyone who spends significant time in the facility. Furthermore, inmates have complained about poor heating and cooling, which could be a serious problem during the harsh midwest winters and increasingly more frequent heat waves. (See this infographic on how a changing climate poses a threat to prisoners).
If the conditions inside the facility are not enough to move you to act, there are also hundreds (if not thousands) of cases of unlawful imprisonment and civil rights violations that occur in the workhouse. Arch City Defenders have documented roughly 300 such cases within the last two years alone. The individuals associated with these cases have been wrongfully jailed in the workhouse due to a Missouri statute that allows public defenders to refuse council to Misdemeanor cases that do not have the sentencing possibility of jail time. Because of this loophole, inmates who have been charged with minor offenses and sent to the workhouse are being forced to take a plea deal before they are released. Because the conditions in the facility are so despicable, men and women would rather take a poor plea and be set free than spend another day in the workhouse.
These are some of the reasons we are calling for the immediate and permanent closure of the Medium Security Institution. To learn more or to take action with us as we fight to #CloseTheWorkhouse please contact: