New High Impact Project Case Challenges Inhumane Conditions at St. Louis City Jail

ArchCity Defenders located in St. Louis and the international law firm DLA Piper at the initiation of the Barbara McDowell Foundation through its Pro Bono High Impact Litigation Project have joined together to continue prosecuting a class action case, Cody, et al. v. City of St. Louis, on behalf of thousands of people who have been held in the Medium Security Institution in St. Louis (a jail more commonly called the "Workhouse") over the past eight years. Through it’s participation in the Barbara McDowell Foundation’s High Impact Litigation Project DLA Piper is providing its support to the case on a pro bono basis The lawsuit seeks damages from St. Louis City for the alleged inhumane conditions experienced by the detainees as well as injunctive relief for the court to require that the jail either be brought up to constitutional standards or closed in order to prevent individuals from being subjected to its abusive conditions. Frequently reported alleged conditions include extreme temperatures, rodent and insect infestation, mold, overflowing sewage, and more.

The lawsuit brings six claims against the City. Two claims relate to conditions at the Workhouse, stemming from Fourteenth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual treatment of pretrial detainees (about 98% of those incarcerated at the Workhouse) and the Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment of post-conviction inmates (the remaining 2% of the population). Two claims relate to inhumane conditions based on excessive temperatures to which many of the detainees were exposed. The final two claims concern First Amendment protections against retaliation, as well as a claim based on the City’s failure to supervise and train its employees.

The case is in extensive discovery and the case has been set for class certification briefing beginning in July 2021 and for jury trial in February 2022.