ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – (UPDATED 5:31 p.m.) The city answered a cry for help from overheated inmates at a medium-security workhouse — but now some say they are too cold.
St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson’s spokesman Koran Addo says they’ve had several complaints from inmates at the workhouse on Hall Street regarding the A/C.
One inmate took matters into his own hands, and was placed in “administrative segregation” after taking a broom handle and hitting a ventilation duct, in an attempt to keep cold air from filling the room.
Addo says they’re trying to make everyone comfortable. The average temperature of the facility, he says, is 77 degrees.
A video was posted to Facebook July 18 of inmates yelling for help out of the facility’s windows, saying there was “black mold,” “asbestos,” and, “We ain’t got no A/C.” The video has been viewed more than 600,000 times.
Protests were held outside the prison, local government officials brought the workhouse’s conditions up in Jefferson City, and non-profit law firm Arch City Defenders raised $25,000 to bail out 14 people.
By the following Sunday, Krewson had the first of five large industrial air conditioners installed at the complex. She said it would be a $40,000 per month expense that wasn’t in the budget, but would “find the money by cutting somewhere else.”
Arch City Defenders staff attorney Nicole Nelson says the released residents were telling stories of mold, mice, insects and overcrowding.
“I think a common theme is that they feel like they’re not treated like humans, that they feel like they’re treated like animals, that they’re just shoved into this one room, average number is about 60 to 72, and that’s a lot,” she said.
Nelson says the workhouse has been so hot, inmates tried to get sent to solitary confinement, or “the hole,” because at least it was air conditioned.
City officials said, before the new A/C units were installed, residents were being circulated through air-conditioned pods in the newer part of the building, while also being supplied with plenty of ice, bottled water, popsicles and Gatorade.
The medium-security workhouse was built in 1966, without facility-wide A/C, and houses more than 700 residents.
Correction: In an earlier version of this story, KMOX reported the five large industrial A/C units would cost $400,000 per month. The story has been corrected to show the actual cost is $40,000 per month. KMOX regrets the error.