Inmates | St. Louis Public Radio


An inmate at Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center in Bonne Terre, Missouri, fills bottles with hand sanitizer. The factory, which normally produces cleaning supplies, has started making sanitizer to distribute to government agencies.
Missouri Department of Corrections

Work hasn’t stopped for Byron Ewing during the coronavirus outbreak — if anything, it’s more intense. 

As an inmate at the state prison in Bonne Terre, Ewing works about 10 hours a day, pouring metal drums of chemicals into a massive mixer. At the end of the assembly line, his fellow inmates bottle the finished product: hand sanitizer. 

Donald Hutson died after taking synthetic cannabinoids, or K2, at Missouri Eastern Correctional Center in 2018. An internal investigation by the Missouri Department of Corrections revealed officers did not follow departmental policy while restraining him.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Donald Hutson’s family had been waiting for his release from prison for decades.

But in September 2018, Hutson died at Missouri Eastern Correctional Center after taking the illegal drug K2.

St. Louis Public Radio first reported on his death last year as part of a long-term investigation examining overdoses in Missouri prisons. Our reporting uncovered disturbing details about the night Hutson died, spurring more questions. 

The Tipton Re-Entry Center resembles an office space, with desktop computers, conference tables and carpeted floors. The center, which opened Wednesday, aims to break the cycle of reincarceration by connecting inmates with job resources prior to release.
Missouri Department of Corrections

Inmates at a Missouri prison will be able to prepare for the workforce prior to their release, thanks to an in-house training program. 

The Re-Entry Center at Tipton Correctional Center, the first of its kind in Missouri, opened Wednesday. The center will connect inmates with potential employers and provide a variety of educational resources. The Missouri Department of Corrections plans to open three additional re-entry centers in other prisons across the state next year, as part of an effort to break the cycle of reincarceration.

St. Louis County jail
File photo

The Buzz Westfall Justice Center in Clayton is sending twice as many inmates to the hospital for medical emergencies as it did in previous years, according to health officials. 

That’s likely because more inmates are coming into jail with drug addictions, said Dr. Emily Doucette, acting co-director of the St. Louis County Department of Public Health. Four in 10 inmates have withdrawal symptoms at their initial booking, said Doucette, whose department provides health care at the jail. 

Additionally, they increasingly have multiple substances, such as alcohol, tranquilizers and opioids, in their system, she said.

The majority of people housed at the Medium Security Institution in St. Louis do not have air conditioning. (July 19, 2017)
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis Department of Health and Division of Corrections are vaccinating 800 people at the city’s two jails to prevent a national hepatitis A outbreak from spreading among inmates.

Since 2016, more than 22,000 people have caught the highly contagious liver virus, which can cause nausea and jaundice and require long periods of hospitalization. Inmates are among the most at risk of contracting the disease, St. Louis Health Department Director Fred Echols said.

“This project at the correctional facilities is truly a preventative measure that we’re implementing to try and protect the population," Echols said. 

Thomas Hawk | Flickr

Updated at 4:35 p.m. with comments from the ACLU — A U.S. appeals court has upheld a federal judge’s decision to include thousands of Missouri Department of Corrections inmates with hepatitis C in a class-action lawsuit that could change how the disease is treated inside the state’s prisons.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the MacArthur Justice Center sued the state on behalf of three inmates with the virus in 2016. The plaintiffs allege that the state didn’t treat their condition properly or quickly enough and only gave treatment to the people with the most serious symptoms. Those actions, they argue, violate the U.S Constitution and constitute cruel and unusual punishment.

Joe Watson has lived a troubled life. He had a traumatic childhood, spent years addicted to cocaine and meth and is now serving a 20 year sentence in the Jefferson City Correction Center for second degree murder.

But the 47-year-old Kansas City, Missouri, native was shaken to his core by the death of his friend and fellow inmate Stevie Jimerson from hepatitis C early last year. 

The majority of people housed at the Medium Security Institution in St. Louis do not have air conditioning. (July 19, 2017)
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 4:40 p.m. with state representative's request — Activists say this week’s near-record heat is dangerous for inmates at St. Louis’ Medium Security Institution and is one more reason the jail needs to be shut down.

The majority of the 700 inmates at the jail, also known as the Workhouse, live in portions that don’t have air conditioning, St. Louis corrections commissioner Dale Glass said. Temperatures are routinely 5 to 10 degrees warmer inside the 51-year-old building than outside; activists allege that’s another violation of inmates’ rights.

Marshall Griffin/St. Louis Public Radio

Sheriffs from around Missouri want state lawmakers to tighten the requirements needed to become a county’s sheriff.

Cape Girardeau County Sheriff John Jordan (R) told a State House committee today that the only current requirements for potential candidates are that they are “breathing,” and can pay the $50 filing fee.  He wants lawmakers to craft legislation that would require sheriff’s candidates to have prior law enforcement experience.

(via Flickr/neil conway)

Reporting from WBEZ's Robert Wildeboer.

Last week, the Illinois Department of Corrections broke a rather unenviable record. On Tuesday, the department housed 49,172 inmates. The previous record was sent in Oct. 2011 when the population hit 49,135.

The population has been steadily rising since Ill. Gov. Pat Quin suspended an early release program in the middle of a heated primary election against Dan Hynes two years ago. Quinn recently signed into law a new early release program that should help bring down the number but it hasn't yet been implemented.

Ill. wants to collect inmate's prison wages

Mar 15, 2011
Flickr |neil conway

The Illinois Supreme Court is considering a case that could determine whether the state can pursue wages earned by prison inmates.

Lawyers presented their arguments Tuesday.

Inmate Kensley Hawkins has saved about $11,000 during his 21 years in prison by squirreling away the income he makes as a furniture assembler. He makes about $75 a month.

Commentary: When prisoners are mentally ill

Sep 27, 2009

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 27, 2009 - Michael Randle got it right. Prodded by inmate advocates and probing journalists, the state's new prisons chief acknowledged substantial mental health issues among more than a fifth of the nearly 240 convicts at the Super Max, a Dantean penitentiary planted in the secluded woods of deep southern Illinois to isolate the most incorrigible of the incarcerated.