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How Inspections of St. Louis’ Workhouse Became a Battle of Belief | Feature | St. Louis | St. Louis News and Events – St. Louis, Missouri

St. Louis, Missouri 2021-06-09 07:20:00 –

In a working prison, the main part of the workhouse does not work.

Every time it rains, water leaks from the flat tin roofs and pools on the gymnasium floor. In kitchens that produce only bread, bugs are swarming near non-functional refrigerators lined up all over the wall. The entire housing unit is empty and the bathrooms and showers are deteriorating with soap scum, rust and slimy dirt.

Detainees often describe the Poorhouse in the most extreme terms. Some call it hell. Formally, St. Louis calls it a medium security agency.

The residential part of the prison is barely visible to the outside eye.

However, on April 24, St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones and some of St. Louis’ most influential elected officials wiped out a 55-year-old facility and inspected something different from what was seen in prison history. I interviewed.

The tour group, along with Jones, included Congressman Cori Bush and the city’s chief prosecutor, circuit lawyer Kim Gardner. The group toured both of the predicaed prisons in the cloudy city on Saturday, starting at the downtown City Justice Center, the site of recent uprisings, and heading north into an industrial area along the river. I went. Auto parts business.

Overall, the group spent five hours in a controversial facility, winding through large white corridors and cluttered clinics. A line of five handcuffed detainees in yellow uniforms were sprayed with mace and left in the cell for hours, burning their skin and forced to spend months without shoes. Up to that point, I’ve heard them take turns explaining the workplaces they know. So a freezing night — sometimes so cold that one man says he can see his breath — is even more miserable.

  • Polite mayor’s office
  • Cori Bush (center left) and Mayor Tishaura Jones (center right) toured the workshop in the first week of Jones’ inauguration.

At the end of the tour, a press conference was waiting for Jones outside the dilapidated prison. What she witnessed that day only convinced her more of what to do, she said.

The visit added that she was “extremely disappointed, shocked and frustrated.”

Former Ferguson protester Bush was also upset by what he saw and heard that day. Prisoners described repeated water outages and a diet containing an unidentified protein they named “ratback.” I did. As Bush walked through the housing unit, he said he heard a detainee screaming after her, “Release the slaves!”

“I didn’t just want to complain about what I thought was happening, I wanted access to see what was really happening,” Bush told reporters. “If you see the filth, Emit Dirt, garbage, insects … ”

“This is our job,” she added firmly. “And now that we are in a position to do something about it, it happens.”

But in the weeks that followed, another group tackled the problem of the state of the workhouse, including the closure of the facility, including Joe Vaccaro, the chairman of the City Council’s Public Safety Commission. There were long-time critics of the campaign. He openly wondered if Jones and Bush exaggerated the conditions they claimed to have faced that day.

Two weeks later, on Wednesday morning in May, Vaccaro tried to organize his own tour of the workhouse for another purpose. Unlike the mayor’s group, he invited a television news crew and reporter to accompany him on a truly “transparent” tour of the workshop he promised.

However, Vaccaro’s media tour barely passed through the front door. Instead, I encountered Heather Taylor.

In a dramatic showdown on May 12, Heather Taylor rejected Vaccaro's attempt to lead the media group to the Poorhouse. --Danny Wisentowski

  • Danny Wisentowski
  • In a dramatic showdown on May 12, Heather Taylor rejected Vaccaro’s attempt to lead the media group to the Poorhouse.

April 15Heather Taylor has joined the upcoming Jones administration as a senior adviser to the new Director of Public Security. Taylor, a recently retired St. Louis murder detective, spent years as the president and public face of the Police Ethics Association.

Taylor was less than a month old when he faced an attempted tour of Vaccaro at the entrance to the workhouse on May 12.

By that time, Taylor had already spent hours inspecting the facility, including a few days ago trip with prison director Jeffrey Carson.

The visit happened on a heavy rainy day and she saw a very different view than the sunny morning visitor of Vaccaro’s visit. Carson, who has been overseeing the prison since 2017, took her to the gymnasium to see a puddle on the floor. He showed her a kitchen that was largely abolished and revealed that the ancient gas stove was so dangerous that he ordered it to be removed. As the explanation continued, Taylor pointed his smartphone’s camera at the discolored floor and photographed two bugs crawling near a large wooden table where detainees bake bread.

Her experience was consistent with what Jones, Bush, and others reported on their April 24 trip. However, on May 12, their claims about garbage, bugs and filth triggered Vaccaro to host a counter tour.

This was the latest example of a complex relationship between the city government and workhouses. Last summer, the City Council members unanimously decided to close the dilapidated facility by the end of 2020. This deadline has passed because prisons in both cities struggled to adapt to the pandemic. Vaccaro supported the previous bill, but he and other officials began to oppose it as calls for the closure of the Poorhouse during the mayoral election season increased.

Vaccaro was not invited to the mayor’s tour. In an interview with KMOV on May 7, he complained that the news of the trip was “totally shocking.”

On May 12, Vaccaro tried to shock the mayor during a scheduled prison visit by the city council’s Public Safety Commission. He, along with members of the committee, invited more than a dozen local journalists, including the reporter. Upon entering the prison entrance, the media gathered in a small open space between the security station and the glass door, waiting for the Vaccaro signal. We saw Alder pass through a metal detector and enter the waiting room.

However, Taylor was waiting for Vaccaro. When he announced a group of journalists RFT, KMOV, St. Louis Post Dispatch, MetroSTL, KMOX, Real STL News-Identifying us as “our guests”-Taylor raised his hand.

“They don’t come in,” she said.

During the next 15 minutes, Vaccaro attempted to negotiate with Taylor, as many reporters watched and recorded. He argued that a media tour was needed for transparency. Taylor replied that detainees’ rights are the city’s “top priority” and that civil servants can photograph what they see that day, but are not allowed to photograph detainees. It was.

Taylor repeated. The media will not participate in the tour.

“At the end of the day,” she said, “this is–”

“This is about transparency,” Vaccaro interrupted.

Taylor objected. “This is a person.”

Ward 23 Alderman Joe Vaccaro opposes Tishaura Jones' plans to close the Poorhouse. "This puts people in an even worse situation." --Danny Wisentowski

  • Danny Wisentowski
  • Ward 23 city council member Joe Vaccaro opposes Tishaura Jones’ plan to close the Poorhouse. “This will put people in a worse situation.”

Vaccaro did not believe that the mayor’s April 24 tour had encountered a situation accused at a press conference. He argued that conducting fact-finding without the media documenting the evidence would only produce “a completely fake tour that makes no sense.”

Vaccaro filed a complaint from a former workhouse resident who had already been transferred to a more modern downtown judicial center, where the detainees claimed to be in a worse situation. “So,” he snapped to Taylor. “Don’t tell me that we have a great deal of favor with these people.

But Taylor wasn’t scared. “There is no media here,” she said again. “That’s the decision. You can make me a bad guy.”

“No,” Vaccaro argued. “The mayor will be a bad guy, because he is a patience.”

He then turned to the camera and reporters, some of whom were livestreaming the debate.

“What are they hiding?” Vaccaro said to the audience. “If the mayor’s office is so afraid of what’s inside this building, why isn’t it transparent? You should ask her. Go to her office. What she’s afraid of Are you afraid of what the mayor is? ”

How Inspections of St. Louis’ Workhouse Became a Battle of Belief | Feature | St. Louis | St. Louis News and Events Source link How Inspections of St. Louis’ Workhouse Became a Battle of Belief | Feature | St. Louis | St. Louis News and Events

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