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Alderman pushes for more information about who's in the city's jails

Medium Security Institution/file photo
File photo | Nassim Benchaabane | St. Louis Public Radio
Alderman Joe Vaccaro, D-23rd Ward, wants more information about inmates held in solitary confinement at the city's jails.

Legislation that would give St. Louis a clearer picture of who's being held in solitary confinement in the city's two jails will be introduced Thursday at the Board of Aldermen.

Joe Vacarro, D-23rd Ward, said he saw the need for more information about the inmate population while campaigning for sheriff this year. 

"A lot of people told me that things are going on," he said. "Everything that I was told could be true, could be false, but this way I actually know."

The legislation requires the city to release a quarterly report on the number of inmates who are in administrative segregation, which is the official term for solitary confinement, as well as details about who is being held there.

Vaccaro said he was especially concerned about an incident in which a woman from Tennessee hanged herself at the medium security facility, 7600 North Hall St., also known as the Workhouse, although she was in general population, not solitary confinement. Her family said she had mental health issues.

"Who's watching these guys? If you're in jail, and you're in a cell, and you're having a heart attack, how do you know if they're not watching?" he asked.

St. Louis corrections authorities also hold prisoners at the City Justice Center, 200 S. Tucker Blvd.

Vaccaro said collecting the information might help convince his fellow lawmakers of the need for a new medium security jail. The workhouse is about 60 years old and parts do not have air conditioning.

"I believe it's best to figure out the truth, and if we can find out the truth, and it comes to the hearts of the people, maybe we can start to get together funding to build a new workhouse. I sort of believe that we need a new one," he said.

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.