Trio sneaks into abandoned St. Louis penitentiary, gets trapped in cell
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ST. LOUIS (KTVI) — NewsNation affiliate KTVI has learned three people broke into the former Medium Security Institution in St. Louis, more commonly known as The Workhouse, and accidentally locked themselves in a cell.

Police say three men, between the ages of 18 and 21, from Dupo and Belleville, Illinois, cut a hole in a fence to get onto The Workhouse grounds two weeks ago. After getting trapped in a cell, they were able to contact a relative, who called police to get them out.

This is just part of a growing list of safety concerns at the vacant site.

“This is alarming to me as a member of the Board of Aldermen and also the Public Safety Committee,” Alderman Tom Oldenburg (Ward 2) said.

The alderman has written the chairman of the Public Safety Committee “demanding the presence and testimony from the city’s corrections division and the operations office” to answer for a lack of oversight at the former jail.

Closing the facility was a hallmark of Mayor Tishaura Jones’ first term. It’s since become a growing source of public safety concerns in the year and a half since she closed it.

It now serves as an overflow lot for junk cars from the city’s tow yard, with piles of cars that appear to have been set on fire. Several holes have been cut into the surrounding fencing and have yet to be repaired.

The city spent millions upgrading the facility not long before its closure.

Mayor Jones now established a committee to reimagine uses for the site. The narrowed-down list includes a possible go-kart track, museum, or open prairie.

“We put almost $8 million into The Workhouse three years ago, and then we abandoned it,” Oldenburg said. “So, maybe we ought to at least take care of it so that it’s safe and people can’t break in and get trapped.”

A city spokesman says a request has been put in to have staff repair those holes in the fences here and that Mayor Jones is due to get a report on the potential reimagined uses of The Workhouse early next year.

Meanwhile, the break-in case has been referred to the city counselor’s office for prosecution, but there’s no word on any charges or citations.

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