City Denies Rat Problem in Tour of Jail

St. Louis Jail on Hall Street subject of complaints

Kevin Killeen
March 14, 2018 - 6:04 pm
St. Louis medium-security workhouse

Kevin Killeen/KMOX

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ST. LOUIS (KMOX) - No rats were seen as reporters got a rare tour of the city jail on Hall Street, also known as the "Workhouse," a facility that a lawsuit claims has a rodent problem.

Public Safety Director Jimmy Edwards and Corrections Commissioner Dale Glass led reporters through the kitchen, dorms, gym and the medical unit of the jail. 

Edwards, who used to be a judge, shook hands with many of the inmates, exchanging friendly greetings. None were overhead complaining about rodents or living conditions.

But then in the medical area, an inmate sitting in a waiting chair saw the reporters and started to address his concerns to Edwards.

"You're not showing the truth about it," the inmate told Edwards. "There's rats running all over the place getting in our food, you know, and cockroaches the size of mice."

Edwards told the man they were having a look around to see for themselves.

The Health Services Administrator for the St. Louis Department of Corrections, Lacinda Jones, was asked about whether inmates complain of any rodent-related health problems.

KMOX: "Do the inmates ever complain of anything related to rodents or bites or anything like that?"

Jones: "They have."

KMOX: "Tell me about that."

Jones: "We've not found that to be the case. We treat them for what we see, and if they come down and they have an abscess, we treat it as such. We can't determine if it's any type of bite or anything like that. I can say that we have not sent anyone out (to the hospital) for any type of bite."

In the kitchen, Corrections Commissioner Glass was asked about the shoebox-sized metal rodent trap set on the kitchen floor.

Shoebox-sized metal rodent trap at Workhouse

"Well, there are no rats, there are no mice, but we have traps throughout the building as preventative maintainance," Glass said.

Edwards down played the allegations of rodents, noting that only one inmate brought it up. 

"You saw probably 300 inmates, and you heard from one that vocalized those concerns," Edwards said.

KMOX was unable to interview any of the inmates to find out their concerns, because a spokesman for the mayor who arranged the tour said no interviews were allowed.

In the past, the building has been the subject of complaints of overcrowding. But not right now.

Glass says the facility has a capacity to hold 1,138 inmates, but currently houses 545, of which 72 are women. The women are kept in a separate section.

Air conditioning has also been a problem. Last summer during a heat wave, when news of sweltering inmates reached the outside, protesters showed up outside the jail fence demanding reform.

The city hired a contractor to pump cool air into the building on a temporary basis. Officials say there's no funding now to install permanent air conditioning, and they expect to bring in temporary air conditioning units, as needed, for the next couple of summers.

"This is not a five-star hotel," Edwards said, "but it's humane and fair."