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County jail can’t house St. Louis inmates, panel advises

CLAYTON (AP) — An advisory board for the St. Louis County Jail is warning that the facility doesn’t have enough room to take inmates from a long-criticized city jail known as the Workhouse.

St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones has promised to close the city jail, whose formal name is the Medium Security Institution. It is one of two in the city.

But members of the oversight panel said the county jail, which is situated in the Buzz Westfall Justice Center in Clayton, has too many detainees and too few employees to safely take on some of the overflow, as city officials had proposed.

The county jail’s population grew about 40% over the last year, largely driven by spikes in the number of pre-trial detainees whose court hearings were put on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic, Acting Director Doug Burris said at the advisory board meeting Friday.

It now houses about 1,000 detainees out of a capacity of about 1,283. The workhouse currently houses 331 inmates.

Meanwhile, the county jail has struggled to recruit qualified applicants to fill about 45 long-vacant positions for correctional officers, Burris said.

Spokesmen for both Jones and County Executive Sam Page said Tuesday no further talks had been held about housing city inmates in the county.

Staff is home to The NorthSider and The SouthSider weekly community newspapers. The SouthSider publishes 25,000 copies every Tuesday. The NorthSider publishes 25,000 copies every Thursday. They are distributed at over 600 locations across St. Louis.

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