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Readers: Keep Workhouse Open; Patterson: Shut It Down

April 24, 2019 Crime, Featured, Politics/Policy No Comments

In the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll more than half the respondents thought St. Louis’ workhouse should remain open.

The Medium Security Institution located at 7600 Hall Street, March 2010
Inside the fences

Here are the results:

Q: Agree or disagree: The St. Louis Workhouse should remain open.

  • Strongly agree: 6 [25%]
  • Agree: 4 [16.67%]
  • Somewhat agree: 4 [16.67%]
  • Neither agree or disagree: 0 [0%]
  • Somewhat disagree: 3 [12.5%]
  • Disagree: 1 [4.17%]
  • Strongly disagree: 6 [25%]
  • Unsure/No Answer: 0 [0%]

Others, including myself, strongly disagree.

In a letter to the Close the Workhouse campaign, city Comptroller Darlene Green added her voice to those who want the decrepit jail built in 1966 to close its doors forever.
“Closing MSI is the right thing to do,” Green wrote. “It is within reach and can be completed in a matter of months, not years, with focus from the administration.” (Post-Dispatch)

From last month:

When Mary Fox took over the public defender’s office in St. Louis in 2007 there were about 2,000 defendants incarcerated who hadn’t been convicted of the alleged crimes that put them behind bars. Then, as now, the bulk of the people in jail in the city were there on pretrial release, most of them poor people, many black, who could not afford the bail set by a judge.
That number, still too high, is down to about 800, Fox said Thursday night at an event held by a coalition of activist groups known as Close the Workhouse. (Post-Dispatch)

Here’s more on the Close the Workhouse campaign:

The Close the Workhouse campaign aims to attack mass incarceration, without legitimizing or justifying the continued caging of people as punishment. We call for the closure of the Medium Security Institute, better known in St. Louis as the Workhouse, an end to wealth based pretrial detention, and the reinvestment of the money used to cage poor people and Black people into rebuilding the most impacted neighborhoods in this region.

The Workhouse is part and parcel of a racist and predatory system of mass incarceration that grew directly out of slavery and Jim Crow and works to perpetuate this shameful legacy in America. The story of the Workhouse illustrates this oppressive history.

The campaign is a collaboration of the individuals subjected to incarceration at the Workhouse and lawyers and activists engaged on the issue. The campaign’s three primary organizational partners work in collaboration everyday in St. Louis to get people free: Action St. Louis, ArchCity Defenders, and Bail Project St. Louis.

The Campaign emerges directly from the outcry that was the Ferguson Uprising. It is grounded in a commitment to end an ongoing war against Black people that has been waged against generations of families in St. Louis. Our aim is not to reform but rather dismantle a racist system that has destroyed lives and to abolish the practice of criminalizing the poor. We not only seek to close the workhouse but also to use the money currently spent to cage Black people to rebuild the most impacted communities. We embrace this task in order to vindicate the victims of the Workhouse and to secure future generations’ ability to thrive.

Please join us in this fight to permanently limit the City of St. Louis’s ability to cage poor people and Black people in this region. Help us share the report and plan throughout impacted communities in St. Louis. With your support, “this is a fight we can win, it is a fight we have to win”.

The St. Louis Workhouse is part of the problem in St. Louis, it’s not a solution.

— Steve Patterson



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