ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV.com) - Every single day, hundreds of convicted criminals, whose meals and beds taxpayers pay for, leave the St. Louis Community Release Center in St. Louis and head out into the community.
They're supposed to be trying to get back on their feet. What some apparently do, instead, may shock you.
“He said we can do this the hard way or the easy way, don't fight,” said St. Louis Assistant Circuit Attorney Kristyn Skelly.
In 2014, prosecutors say Shawn Akery cornered a woman downtown and tried to rape her.
But it wasn't Akery's first crime. He was out on parole for another attempted rape and he was living at the St. Louis Community Release Center.
There are chilling tales of offenders walking away from the center who are now charged with committing heinous crimes.
"The system is broken to the point that I wouldn't even begin to know how to fix it,” said a resident of the facility.
That resident, fearing retaliation, agreed to sit down to talk but wanted to remain anonymous.
He, like everyone else at the center, is a criminal, all of them on either probation or parole for crimes ranging from counterfeiting to kidnapping and worse.
Currently, there are more than 160 registered sex offenders living there, nearly 20 of whom are convicted of child molestation, nearly 40 are convicted of some form of rape or attempted rape. Six residents have been convicted of murder.
Every day, many are allowed to leave in a mass exodus that is all a part of the plan. They're supposed to look for work or go to school or treatment programs and return at night.
But the resident says that's not always how it works.
“People leave and they go do whatever they want,” he said.
He says they often only get in trouble if they're gone for more than 24 hours. He knows many guys simply panhandle or worse.
“Everybody has a hustle, everybody has a hustle to make money,” said the resident.
Drugs inside the facility, he says, are rampant. Data shows there were 67 incidents of drug violations at the facility in 2015 and 142 violations in 2014.
There are also residents who walk away and don't come back. Even though there are 550 beds in the facility, there's an average of about 760 absconding incidents each year.
“I think it's a problem,” said Alderman Jack Coatar.
Alderman Coatar is alarmed and so is St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson. His officers have made contact with the center's residents about 200 times since 2015.
“I'm not an expert on corrections, but I am an expert on law enforcement and I am seeing that facility is causing crimes in our city,” said Dotson.
Both Coatar and Dotson agree something should be done to help transition criminals, but this center, they say, isn't working.
“What I am telling you is that the people aren't taking advantage of the resources, they're committing crimes and it needs to be re-evaluated,” said Dotson.
In 2015, Kansas City's community release center was converted to a more traditional prison after leaders claimed the center was contributing to crime there.
St. Louis' center is now the only one of its kind in the state.
“If you are a parolee from southeast Missouri and you're just dropped into downtown St. Louis, how are you going to be expected to succeed?” said Coatar.
Aldermen Coatar says he has tried to talk to the Department of Corrections, the agency that runs the facility.
With all of these questions about the St. Louis Community Release Center, News 4 wanted to talk to officials at the Department of Corrections in Jefferson City, but no one would talk on camera.
Instead, the center sent a statement saying it has no plans to close the St. Louis Community Release Center and that it is functioning as intended.
The numbers show that people staying at the center return back to prison for new crimes at a lower rate than inmates released from traditional prisons.
So what happens next?
“I am passed the point of asking nicely, I am going to be demanding some data and some information,” said Coatar.
Ask the resident and the answer is simple, a total shut down.
“It's not helping people, I think it's a waste of money,” he said.
The Department of Corrections disputes the 24-hour claim of that resident. The department says there is a structured process in place to supervise the residents.
Copyright 2016 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.