St. Louis prison filled with snakes, mal is ‘inhuman’ for prisoners, lawsuit claims

Prisoners look to the arrival of temporary air conditioning in the St. Louis Medium Security Institution.

(AP/St. Louis Post-Dispatch )

A St. Louis in the prison with only one toilet for 70 inmates and parasitic diseases of snakes, squirrels, and birds is the creation of “hellish and inhumane conditions” for those who, according to a lawsuit filed against the city.

The seven former prisoners of the St. Louis Medium Security Institution that filed the lawsuit Monday saying the dirty — and dangerous — conditions violated the prisoners, the constitutional rights of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

“I felt like I was treated like a dog,” said the 43-year-old James Cody of Jefferson City, who was imprisoned there for eight months of this year on a probation violation.

He corrected himself: “Dogs are treated better, to tell you the truth.”

Cody, speaking at a press conference, said he often found mouse feces in a cake served at the prison.

The response from the prison staff? Just the scrape of the stool, said Cody.

Cody added mice would jump into bed with the prisoners, and a prisoner is tried the construction of a crude rat trap with peanut butter, so he could kill them himself.

Some of the windows in the prison – which houses 551 prisoners are boarded up, creating terrible conditions in the summer, the lawsuit claims. Others have no window screens, providing an open door for such invaders, such as mosquitoes, squirrels, and birds, allowing the critters to have “a regular presence” in the lawsuit adds.

The St. Louis mayor’s office told The Associated Press the jail is inspected several times per year by the city Health Department and problems are addressed as they arise. Spokesman of the Koran Addo said preventive maintenance is also performed on a regular basis in the prison, opened in the 1960s.


St. Louis Corrections Commissioner Dale Glass would not comment on the lawsuit Monday, but rejected claims about mold and infestations, and said guards and prisoners were not attacked by snakes and spiders.

He told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the jail “signs of decay, but it is clean.”

Protesters start to push in one of the outside gates outside the St. Louis medium security prison.

(AP/St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

The nonprofit ArchCity Defenders, a law firm filed the federal lawsuit seeking closure of the establishment or fine St. Louis $10,000 per day until the alleged problems are resolved, the Post-dispatch reported.

Blake Walked, a lawyer for the ArchCity Defenders, called the conditions in the prison “is unconstitutional and inhumane,” the violation of the constitutional provisions against cruel and unusual punishment.

Another ex-detainee, Diedre Wortham, was arrested on a ten-year-old speeding ticket, and 22 days spent in jail, ” she said. She says, after being in the hospital for high blood pressure, she was denied the medication for a week.

Wortham told The Associated Press they breathed by means of a T-shirt because of the mold in the prison, and filled shirts under her cell door to keep mice.

“I didn’t know that I was going to make it out of Jail alive,” Wortham said.

Cody also said he was housed in a dorm with 69 other men, all sharing a single working toilet, washbasin and shower. He recalled the heat of the summer, when the temperatures in the prison reached 125 degrees, according to the lawsuit. The warm conditions have led to the July protests, which resulted in city officials temporarily to bring in portable air conditioners.

But limited ice and water has led to conflicts between prisoners, who are suffering from dehydration and heat rash, the lawsuit claims, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Glass told the newspaper of the future heat waves could reduce the temporary air conditioners, but said it is not unusual for local jails and state prisons are without AC.

He said that the health department inspection earlier this year found no mold, despite the detainees the opportunity to disclaim.


Glass, a former Baptist minister, also told the Post-Dispatch his goal is to “no need” for the facility addressing the mental health, substance use, and other factors that may lead to the crimes of the prisoners carried away.

Still, the prison, accused of misconduct many times in the past few years.

In 2009, the American Civil Liberties Union report said that the employees running the facility allowed prisoners to assault each other and ignored sexual harassment, according to the Post-Dispatch.

In 2012, a lawsuit also accused the prison guards of forcing prisoners into “gladiator-style fight,” which it denied.

Missouri state Rep. Joshua Peters, who was also at the press conference Monday, said he toured the jail in April with other lawmakers, and confirmed the prisoners’ complaints in the lawsuit. But so far, according to the Post-Dispatch, he is not able to access local and national officials to make changes.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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