Missouri’s governor says the state’s prison system “wastes your money”.

Governor Eric Greitens addresses Missouri lawmakers in January 2017 (photo courtesy of Tim Bommel at Missouri House Communications)

Governor Eric Greitens (R) has signed an executive order creating a task force to reform Missouri’s corrections system.

Greitens says the task force aims to improve public safety, reduce prison spending and reinvest in strategies which decrease crime and reduce recidivism.

Greitens says: “Our prison system wastes your money and it wastes people’s lives. We have to fix it.”

Greitens says many inmates who leave Missouri prisons leave without jobs and money. He says they need to learn a trade, earn their GED and have faith leaders teach them “right and wrong.”

Greitens admits the problems “won’t be fixed overnight.” He says new Missouri Department of Corrections (DOC) Director Anne Precythe “inherited a mess”, which he says included low morale and corrections officers being mistreated.

The task force will include Governor Greitens, Director Precythe, a member of Missouri’s Probation and Parole Board, Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice Zel Fischer, a circuit judge, House Budget Committee Chairman Scott Fitzpatrick, R-Shell Knob, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Dan Brown, R-Rolla, one Democratic and one GOP state senator, one Democratic and one Republican state representative, a prosecutor, a public defender, a former prisoner and a member of the public.

Greitens says Director Precythe or her designee will chair the task force, which must produce a written report by December 31.

The Missouri Department of Corrections’ workplace environment has received a lot of focus from lawmakers, after a scathing November investigative series was published in the “Kansas City Pitch”.

House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, created the Missouri House Subcommittee on Corrections Workforce Environment and Conduct in late January, after the “Pitch” investigation.

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”.

Missouri House Subcommittee on Corrections Workforce Environment and Conduct chairman Jim Hansen (R-Frankford) and the committee released their final report in May.

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.

The Missouri Department of Corrections’ current budget is about $725 million. DOC spokesman David Owen tells Missourinet there are currently 32,793 inmates.