Inez Bordeaux was at times left broke, homeless, and living in a halfway house over the years of unpleasant interactions with the criminal justice system in St Louis, Missouri. But the only time she ever felt hopeless was during the month she was incarcerated in the city’s infamous “workhouse” jail in 2016.
“I might not come out on the other side of this,” Bordeaux recalled thinking to herself. Her first three days were spent in solitary confinement after staff witnessed her crying, and deemed her a suicide risk.
“They took all my clothes and gave me a suicide smock, I couldn’t call anyone, talk to anyone, or read anything,” Bordeaux said.
A registered nurse and mother of four, Bordeaux was being held in the workhouse on a technical probation violation. Like 98% of inmates there, she was legally innocent but Bordeaux was being detained pre-trial because she couldn’t afford her $25,000 bail.
he describes the rest of her month in the workhouse as full of black mold, rats and blocked toilets churning up fetid waste. She was denied any outdoors time and basic feminine hygiene products.
“I say all the time that the workhouse is a hopeless place,” Bordeaux said. “When you first walk in you can feel the hopelessness. You can feel the desperation.”
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