St. Louis Community Release Center (Release Center) at 1621 North First Street, St. Louis, MO 63102 in the Near North Riverfront neighborhood, operated by the Missouri Department of Corrections, is a facility that releases up to 450 people who are serving the remainder of their sentences on parole without a home plan into the surrounding community on a daily basis with little to no supervision. This facility is within walking distance to the neighborhoods of Downtown, Downtown West, Columbus Square, Carr Square, St. Louis Place and Old North. The Release Center is the source of many serious problems, and it degrades the livability and economic vitality of the surrounding area.
Out of the 115 counties in the State of Missouri, the Department of Corrections operates only one facility to handle 100% of the state’s individuals who were recently released from the State of Missouri’s penitentiary system and do not have a housing plan. This system disregards the origins of the people being released. For example, although a former inmate may have been raised and have family ties or other connections in Springfield, MO they are placed in the facility near Downtown St. Louis instead of near their natural support system.
The Release Center operates with a stated mission of creating opportunities for individuals staying at the facility to be self-sufficient and accountable. Furthermore, the ultimate goal of this center is to encourage reintegration with society upon release from the center. To that end, the Release Center has failed to live up to its mission. The Department of Corrections 2016 Budget Request states that 40% of individuals sent to this Release Center will successfully complete this program amongst whom there is a 25% recidivism rate. The remaining 60% of individuals who fail to complete the program have an 80% recidivism rate. That equates to a total blended recidivism rate of individuals sent to the Release Center of 58% of all inmates sent to this facility. This number is particularly startling when compared to the overall Missouri Department Corrections recidivism rate of 45.5%.
We have sat down with people staying at the Release Center, and they report horrendous conditions. The two men we spoke with stated a complete lack of resources for people seeking assistance with job training and placement, substance use disorder and mental health treatment, and housing needs. They also reported rampant drug use and trafficking inside the facility and among the people staying there in the surrounding community.
In light of the evidence, our hope is that Governor Greitens reviews these serious problems and takes immediate action to completely reform the operations of the Release Center for the safety and well-being of the people staying in that facility and the surrounding communities that are negatively impacted by its current practices.
Note: We recently signed onto a letter to Governor Greitens alongside other Downtown stakeholders organized by Downtown STL, Inc. You can view that letter here.
 2016 Department of Correction Budget Request, Book 3 pgs. 103 – 111
 2015 Missouri Reentry Process Report to the Governor pg. 1