The new state Department of Corrections director testified Monday in Jefferson City that she wants to reserve prison space for Missouri’s most dangerous criminals.

Rep Scott Fitzpatrick – Photo courtesy of State of Missouri

Her comments came late in a Statehouse budget presentation, after House Budget Committee chairman Scott Fitzpatrick (R-Shell Knob) told committee members a man who exposed himself and touched a 14-year-old girl recently received only a four-month prison sentence, from a judge.

Fitzpatrick then told the committee that “we are on a collision course for a new prison.”

Director Anne Precythe testifies that Missouri must look at who’s coming to prison.

“My commitment to this (House Budget) committee is not to come back to you and say we need to build more prison beds,” says Precythe. “I think we need to be criminal justice smart on crime and not just pay for crime, and there are ways to do that.”

Precythe comes from North Carolina, where she says prison population decreased from 43,000 to about 36,000 after criminal justice reform passed there.

DOC Division of Adult Institutions Director Dave Dormire testifies Missouri is now at-capacity, with about 32,500 inmates.

“Although this summer we hit 33,900, so we’ve got a little flexibility,” says Dormire. “We pushed them into corners and everything like that, so we know we can handle 33-9.”

Missouri has 20 prisons. The last one built was the new Chillicothe Correctional Center, which opened in 2008 to address the increasing female prison population.

Chairman Fitzpatrick is frustrated about the sex offender, who was sentenced to 120 days after exposing himself and touching the 14-year-old girl.

“And I think a lot of that is pressures on judges and prosecutors, knowing that we’re at capacity when, what do they do with these guys when we’ve got county jails holding,” Fitzpatrick says.

He tells the DOC he realizes it was the court, not the Department of Corrections, who sentenced the man. Fitzpatrick tells committee members victims are worried about sex offenders being released and retaliating against those who testified against them.

After Monday’s hearing, Missourinet asked Fitzpatrick about his comment that Missouri was “on a collision course for a new prison.” He says that comment is out of frustration over sentencing practices and what has happened.

Fitzpatrick agrees with Precythe, who says prison bed space must be reserved for the most dangerous criminals. He also agrees with her call to be “criminal justice smart.”

Precythe told the committee that the criminal that Fitzpatrick described should be in prison.

Fitzpatrick and Precythe spoke briefly in the House hearing room, after the budget presentation and testimony ended.

Governor Eric Greitens (R) has proposed a $725 million dollar DOC budget, which includes $301 million for the Division of Adult Institutions.

Greitens’ proposed budget includes $2 million for reentry and recidivism initiatives, and $36,500 for restitution for those found to be innocent through DNA analysis.