The chairman of a House committee investigating the workplace environment within the Missouri Department of Corrections (DOC) wants the committee to stay intact.
The Missouri House Subcommittee on Corrections Workforce Environment and Conduct was formed in late January, after a scathing investigative series was published in the “Kansas City Pitch”.
The newspaper obtained lawsuits and court documents late last year, showing that male employees and supervisors in some prisons commonly referred to female employees as “bitches” and “whores”.
While the subcommittee released its final report this week, chairman State Rep. Jim Hansen (R-Frankford) says he’s asking House Speaker Todd Richardson (R-Poplar Bluff) to keep it intact, in case committee members want new DOC Director Anne Precythe or others to testify.
“If we have to have a meeting with her (Director Precythe) where she comes and talks to the committee, I want that option available and I also want the option available feedback from her or how things are going, we might want to visit with some wardens too,” Hansen says.
Hansen says the recommendations are aimed at eliminating what he calls “the hostile work environment” in which employees were subjected. The subcommittee’s recommendations include implementation of a zero tolerance policy and a 24-hour hotline.
Hansen tells Missourinet the DOC had settlements of more than $10 million in the past five years for sexual harassment cases.
Chairman Hansen and committee members say the Department must ensure that those who are guilty of misconduct are fired or prosecuted.
“People (DOC employees) are going to have to act in a professional way, and if they’re involved in the things that we’ve heard and discovered I expect her (Precythe) to take appropriate action, really do,” says Hansen.
Hansen praises Director Precythe’s “zero tolerance” policy.
The subcommittee is recommending yearly sexual harassment training at the DOC, along with random employee drug testing.
Hansen is also encouraging the Missouri Department of Corrections to improve its public relations efforts.
“Have our wardens more involved with providing information to the community on what’s going on in the institution,” Hansen says. “Go speak to service clubs, maybe write a quarterly report for the local newspaper.”
Hansen also would like to see Precythe send letters to employees who do good things.
Click here to listen to Missourinet news director Brian Hauswirth’s eight-minute interview with State Rep. Jim Hansen (R-Frankford), which was recorded on May 17, 2017: