The state has not had to build a new prison for more than a decade, but the time for another one is getting close. The Corrections Department operates twenty adult institutions that now house more than 32,500 men and women that cost the state more than $22,000 a year to house. More than 70,000 other people are In the probation and parole system and several new programs in recent years focus on making it less likely that many of those people will return to prison.
Corrections director George Lombardi says he naively thought when he took the job in 2008 that he’d be able to close a prison during his tenure. Instead, the population has grown. He attributes the growth to the tighter jobs market caused by the recession and the rise in crimes committed by women.
He says the numbers would be worse if not for probation and parole programs that have been developed to keep people from returning to prison if they stumble after being released to the probation and parole system.
The Corrections Department mothballed a prison in Jefferson City about a decade ago after the prison-building boom of the Carnahan administration years, but with the buildings left standing today it would only hold about 1,000 inmates.