The report is an indictment of the conditions inflicted on people held at the Workhouse, mostly before their cases have been adjudicated and paints a stunning portrait of the facility’s history. The key findings of the report show:
Nearly everyone incarcerated in the Workhouse has not been convicted of a crime and is legally presumed innocent. The Workhouse almost exclusively confines individuals awaiting trial. Many people are incarcerated in cages because they are poor. Most are charged with non-serious crimes also related to poverty. Over 10% of those awaiting trial ultimately have their charges dismissed after spending an average of 291 days in jail.
Individuals remain incarcerated in the Workhouse solely because they cannot afford bond. Cash bail allows wealthy individuals to be released while confining the poor simply because they cannot pay. Unlike similar cities, St. Louis allows only 4% of individuals to be released on a promise to appear, instead setting a median bond of $25,000. This is completely unaffordable to the average St. Louisan who has a per capita income of $25,434.
Nearly 90% of the individuals in the Workhouse are Black though only half of St. Louis’s population is Black. This outcome reflects the targeted policing and criminalization of segregated Black communities, especially communities in North St. Louis. Poor and homeless individuals and those facing mental illness are also disproportionately impacted.
The inhumane and abusive conditions in the Workhouse violate the Constitution. Since opening in 1966, there has been a well-documented history of inhumane conditions at the Workhouse, continuing to today. In the last 5 years, there have been 6 documented deaths. Individuals incarcerated there endure extreme temperatures, inadequate sanitation, vermin infestations, and violence. These conditions violate the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.