Huge Win in Campaign to Close Notorious St. Louis Jail
St. Louis elected officials unanimously vote to close the medium security institute, known as ‘the Workhouse,’ after two-year campaign
ST. LOUIS – After years of organizing, advocacy, protest and litigation, organizers from the Close the Workhouse campaign are celebrating St. Louis City Board of Aldermen’s unanimous vote Friday to close the Medium Security Institution known as “The Workhouse.” Action St. Louis, ArchCity Defenders, Bail Project St. Louis make up the Close the Workhouse Campaign which, for two years, demanded the Workhouse be shut down due to its inhumane conditions and the city’s unlawful cash bail system which detained community members inside the Workhouse pretrial for as long as 200 days.
“When local organizers first raised the question, the idea that we could close the Workhouse jail was inconceivable,” said Thomas B. Harvey Justice Project Director for Advancement Project National Office. Harvey co-founded ArchCity Defenders in 2009 and served as its Executive Director from 2009-2017. “Today, the Board of Alders voted unanimously to close the Workhouse. It is truly a testament to the hard work, partnerships, campaign strategy and community advocacy of local organizers and activists. Without the leadership of people like Kayla Reed, Blake Strode, Mike Milton, Inez Bordeaux, Jae Shepherd and so many more, this never could have happened. It’s incredible to see.”
The Close the Workhouse campaign aimed to attack mass incarceration, without legitimizing or justifying the continued caging of people as punishment. As supporters of the campaign, we called for the closure of the Medium Security Institute, an end to wealth-based pretrial detention, and the reinvestment of the money used to cage poor people and Black people into rebuilding the most impacted neighborhoods in this region. Today, the Board of Alderman unanimously approved a bill introduced last week that calls for the closing of the jail in 150 days, creates a Neighborhood Crime Reduction Fund, and allows for a participatory budgeting process that involves community members most directly impacted by the violence of the jail in spending decisions.
“Not only will the Workhouse be closed, the money from the city’s budget will be preserved and spent on social services in the areas most impacted by the violence of the jail historically,” continued Harvey. “The next part of the fight is to hold St. Louis leaders accountable to this plan and make sure the money goes where it’s supposed to go: to support thriving Black futures. Advancement Project National Office is proud to have supported the Close the Workhouse campaign since the beginning. From organizing training to political education and communications to litigation, we are excited to have worked with Action St. Louis, ArchCity Defenders, and the Bail Project throughout this long effort.”