Feature from Columbia's VOX Magazine • By: Joey Ukrop • Photography: Jeff Robertson/The Associated Press
This article was part of "The Killing State," a special VOX issue dedicated to capital punishment in Missouri. The issue was named "Best Student Magazine" and "Best Non-Fiction Magazine Article" by the Society of Professional Journalists in 2015. More information can be found here.
An oversized cross and a green metal sign mark the border to St. Francois County. Bonne Terre sits a few miles down the line. The name suggests it’s “good earth," but that was back when mining was on the rise and long before the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center was built in the field across from the Neubrand family farm.
The 19-building complex sprawls across 76 acres on the north side of Highway K, just an hour south of St. Louis. Four of the buildings are allotted for diagnostic and reception use, while another six house inmates at various levels of security. Some 2,900 prisoners live on the grounds. They have a chapel, gym, library, medical unit, electric fence with warnings in multiple languages and an expansive parking lot that features a driveway named No More Victims Lane. For the past decade, the Missouri Department of Corrections’ most serious offenders have been executed in the outskirts of Bonne Terre.
On a Saturday morning, the prison landscape also includes a handful of people waiting in uncomfortable plastic chairs inside one of the sand-colored buildings. A man and a woman in blue uniforms sit behind a long desk while more stare at computers in a control room behind tinted glass. Decoration is limited to word-processed notices and signs telling you what not to do.
Click here to read the story of Bonne Terre and the ERDCC in Vox Magazine