ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – Prisoners released on bail this week from the city’s workhouse are telling a civil rights lawfirm what life is like inside the walls.

The non-profit lawfirm Arch City Defenders raised $25,000 in donations to bail out 14 people.

Earlier this week, the city installed temporary air conditioners at the workhouse in response to protests last week during a record heat wave.

work house Prisoners Released From Citys Workhouse Talk About Life On The Inside

St. Louis city medium-security workhouse. (KMOX/Brad Choat)

The released prisoners are complaining about more than just the air conditioning. Staff Attorney Nicole Nelson says they’re 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 says.

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.

At this point, Nelson says no lawsuit is planned against the city, but Arch City Defenders continues to talk with former prisoners to gather evidence of living conditions at the workhouse.

“Regardless of the people who are in there, which majority are black males – they have value,” she says. “And the conditions in the workhouse need to be improved regardless of the demographics in the workhouse.”

If there are “various inhumane conditions” at the workhouse as prisoners say, “then the city has some work to do,” Nelson says.

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