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Demonstrators take 'Victory Lap' to celebrate bill to close 'The Workhouse'

"It's just important for us to have it shut down so that nobody else loses their family member the way we have," said Martha Moore

ST. LOUIS — On a hot Sunday afternoon, a long line of drivers were on a mission outside the medium-security jail in north St. Louis known as "The Workhouse".

Members of the Close The Workhouse and Arch City Defenders pulled up in their cars, chanted, held signs and continuously honked their horns during what they called a "victory lap."

"We are going to celebrate today. We built a movement y'all and we are not done," an enthusiastic Inez Bordeaux, an organizer from Arch City Defenders, told the crowd.

For years, people have held protests, pleading for the city to close The Workhouse that's been around for more than 50 years. Critics said the facility housed inmates in "unconstitutional an inhumane conditions."

On Friday, the St. Louis Board of Aldermen voted unanimously to shut it down.

RELATED: St. Louis Board of Aldermen unanimously votes on plan to close 'The Workhouse'

Demonstrators at Sunday's event call the impending closure "a huge victory."

"We accomplished something that no one thought we would be able to do. We don't need two jails. It doesn't make financial sense for the city to continue paying for two jails especially with the population at the medium-security jail continues to decrease," said Inez Bordeaux.

The city has invested in upgrades at the medium-security jail in the past couple of years, and, with the population down to about 90 inmates, Mayor Lyda Krewson has slashed the budget for the "Workhouse" in half and redirected some money to social services.

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

"It does not belong here," said Martha Moore.

 For Moore, the protest was personal.

Before riding in the so-called "victory lap," Moore and her husband held pictures of her brother outside the jail.

Nearly a year ago, 35-year-old Chris Brown died while he was an inmate at The Workhouse.

According to the medical examiner, the cause of death was an accidental fentanyl overdose.

"He had said some horrible things happened to him in here that no human being should have to deal with and nobody's been accountable. It's just important for us to have the building shut down so that nobody else loses their family member the way we have," said Martha Moore.

In the past two years, the city has invested in upgrades at the jail.

While the city hasn't said where inmates will be relocated, if the jail permanently closes, protesters and city activists believe there's room to move the inmates to the city's newer jail downtown.

Meanwhile, Mayor Lyda Krewson still must sign the board bill.

"My brother would be alive today if he was not in the workhouse," said Martha Moore.

"It's time. The people have spoken. Our elected officials have spoken. It's the Mayor's duty to sign that bill," Inez Bordeaux said.

The Mayor's Offices tells 5 On Your Side Krewson says she'll review the board bill in more detail in the coming days.

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