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Lewis Reed files board bills to close 'The Workhouse,' use funds on neighborhood crime reduction

The bill would take funding earmarked for The Workhouse and use it for community programs aimed at reducing recidivism and violent crime

ST. LOUIS — Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed will file a pair of board bills that would close St. Louis' Medium Security Institute, also know as "The Workhouse", and redirect funds to crime reduction programs.

The first bill calls for officials to immediately start assessing the potential cost of outsourcing housing of the people currently held at The Workhouse, determine possible new uses for the facility and land and develop a plan to close the facility no more than 150 days from the effective date of the bill.

The bill would also create a Division of Recidivism with the city's health director and commissioner of corrections serving on the management team. The new division would connect detainees determined to suffer from mental illness with resources that would help "facilitate re-entry into society."

The bill would also create the Neighborhood Crime Reduction Fund. Money from that program that would be "allocated to neighborhoods with high violent crime" which Reed said would be administered by a participatory budgeting process, also known as a citizen budget. Policy experts say citizen budgets are when a group of citizens makes the spending decisions for a portion of a municipality's budget.

Both programs would be funded with the $7.2 million earmarked for the operation of The Workhouse and any money brought in by leasing the property and facility.

The bill would also require the Director of Personnel to interview all Workhouse employees to see if they could fill any of the city's vacant civil service positions.

The bill will be introduced at the Board of Aldermen meeting Thursday. It would require the approval of two-thirds of the board to pass.

Earlier in the year, Mayor Lyda Krewson announced more than $800,000 that was set to be used for operating The Workhouse would be used elsewhere.

RELATED: Money meant for 'The Workhouse' could be redirected to St. Louis community policing program

Leaders, protesters and criminal justice reformers have long called for the closure of The Workhouse. 

"This is not only a moral imperative but a financial imperative," Alderwoman and mayoral candidate Cara Spencer said. "This is about hearing the calls for action that our activists' community have been making for decades."

RELATED: Alderwoman: Closing 'The Workhouse' is a moral and financial imperative