A state lawmaker from southwest Missouri is concerned about the recidivism rate at the St. Louis Community Release Center.

State Rep. Cody Smith (middle) at a House Budget Committee hearing. State Rep. Crystal Quade (D-Springfield) is at left and State Rep. Phil Christofanelli (R-St. Peters) is at right. Photo courtesy of Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications

Governor Eric Greitens’ (R) proposed budget includes $4.3 million for the St. Louis Community Release Center, a 550-bed facility where parolees transition from prison to the community.

During the Missouri Department of Corrections’ (DOC) recent budget presentation, State Rep. Cody Smith (R-Carthage) asked Missouri Probation and Parole Chief State Supervisor Julie Kempker about the facility’s recidivism rate.

“And I will tell you, Representative (Smith), the success rate is not good from this facility,” Kempker testifies. “We are, sometimes it feels like it has become a dumping ground for homeless sex offenders, for those offenders that are high-risk, high-need.”

Smith tells Missourinet further scrutiny of the St. Louis Community Release Center is in progress.

Kempker tells Rep. Smith and the House Budget Committee that she and DOC Director Anne Precythe will tour the facility this month.

“Because, I have this vision that it can be something better than what it is,” Kempker says. “And so, to answer you quite honestly, the recidivism rate, these people do not succeed well here (at the St. Louis Community Release Center), and I think though it is something that we can do internally to make the facility a better place.”

The “St. Louis Post-Dispatch” published a 2016 investigative story about the facility, and gave several examples of St. Louis Community Release Center offenders being out during the day and committing other crimes.

For instance, the “Post-Dispatch” story says convicted sex offender Shawn Akery was supposed to be searching for work, but instead tried to rape the assistant manager of the Paul Brown lofts downtown. The “Post” says Akery was convicted. Missourinet checked on Friday, and Akery is currently incarcerated at the maximum-security Southeast Correctional Center in Charleston.

The 2016 article reported that the facility “houses up to 550 of the state’s worst offenders who are finishing up their sentences.” The story noted that that another St. Louis Community Release Center resident was charged with sexually assaulting a woman in a downtown St. Louis parking garage, and that another was charged with raping a woman at an abandoned building downtown.

During the February 13 budget hearing at the Statehouse in Jefferson City, there was some confusion among lawmakers, including from St. Louis City, about the facility’s location. Some thought it is the St. Louis City Jail. It is not. The St. Louis Community Release Center is located at 1621 North First Street, not far from a casino.

Missouri Department of Corrections spokesman David Owen tells Missourinet the facility currently has 360 offenders. It has 126 full-time employees, and Kempker tells State Rep. Cloria Brown (R-St. Louis) that the St. Louis Community Release Center needs more staff, based on the “clientele” there.

“Because it’s somewhat of a “quasi-prison” and community release center, we have to have the custody staff there to monitor them coming in and out” says Kempker. “Then we have case management staff that also work with them to assist in maintaining a home plan.”