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St. Louis Prisoners Scream For Help During Heat Wave

| by Alex Scarr

Inmates at a St. Louis jail could be heard screaming for help as they endured triple-digit temperatures inside a facility that's largely without air conditioning.

Those held at the St. Louis Medium Security Institution jail were captured on video yelling and shouting for help through the windows of their cells, according to KTVI. The video was shot by a local reporter who was gathering information about the notoriously tough conditions at the "Workhouse." The reporter says he was later asked to leave.

The Workhouse was built in 1966 and does not have air conditioning in most parts of the facility.

As the St. Louis area was overtaken by a heat wave, temperatures around the city reached over 100 degrees and could peak at 105 by its end. The KTVI reporter spoke with the grandmother of an inmate at the prison who said temperatures inside the individual cells reached 109 degrees.

Many of the inmates at the Workhouse have not been convicted of a crime, according to KTVI. Instead, many of them are awaiting trial and cannot afford to post bail.

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson said staffers at the Workhouse often provide inmates with juice and ice to help keep them cool. Without air conditioning throughout much of the building, staff members are also dealing with difficult conditions.

Democratic state Rep. Joshua Peters of St. Louis visited the jail and found conditions inside to be "deplorable," citing mold, insect infestations and vermin throughout the prison. He called on his fellow members of the Missouri State Congress to examine and investigate conditions at the Workhouse, according to the Riverfront Times.

"Some will say they don't deserve air conditioning, they should be hot," St. Louis Corrections Commissioner Dale Glass told KMOV. "Some will say you're inhumane, let them go."

Glass also added that it was his priority to keep inmates safe, not necessarily comfortable. He added that the cafeteria at the jail was serving as a cooling station, and had supplied round-the-clock medical staffers to deal with potential heat-related illnesses.

"I'm not saying that it's supposed to be the Ritz Carlton, we all know that, but the conditions that we have them in is unconstitutional to some degree," Peters told KMOV. "Individuals were screaming out that they had been bitten by rodents. Others were screaming about mold and infestation. We need someone to go back there and find out what's going on."

Peters has urged his fellow state representatives for a prompt investigation into the prison.

The heat wave is expected to break July 22.

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