A special legislative committee will continue its work this session to help strengthen the environment within Missouri’s prison system. In 2016, the Pitch.com revealed that the State Department of Corrections has dealt with a systemwide culture of harassment, intimidation and abuse of officers by other prison guards – costing the state millions in settlements over several years. The report inspired the creation of the special committee to study the problems and recommend changes meant to help the department recover from its tarnished image and foster a positive culture among the people living and working there.
Several hearings were held throughout the legislature’s 2017 session to allow members of the public to testify. Many workers showed up to share the problems they witnessed like reporting rampant nepotism, vaguely constructed rules and poor procedures for awarding promotions, policies and procedures persistently changing from shift to shift depending on the leaders in charge, and a poorly-defined chain of command.
Committee Chairman, Jim Hansen, R-Frankford, tells Moberly radio station KWIX he wants to work with Director Anne Precythe to continue making progress. Precythe came on board after the dysfunction was uncovered.
“I think we’re on the same page on a lot of issues but it’s such a huge issue to turn around this culture. What’s taken place in the last 15 years or so with previous leadership is not good. She’s (Precythe) got her work cut out for her,” he says.
Hansen wants Precythe to give him an update during a meeting later this month about changes recommended by the committee.
“We’ve still got a lot of issues to oversee and overcome there. We still need to have major changes. It’s going to take a little while. It’s not going to happen overnight but we’re going to have to have some results. That’s for sure,” says Hansen.
Some of the subcommittee’s recommendations included:
•Implementation of a zero tolerance policy
•A 24-hour hotline to report problems
•A clearly defined chain of command for employees to file a complaint
•A follow-up system through the creation of the Office of Professional Standards
•New recruiting and hiring procedures for supervisors
•Yearly sexual harassment training
•Random employee drug testing
Several leadership changes have been made since the fallout of the Pitch.com’s report.
Bob Ehle of Missourinet affiliate KWIX in Moberly contributed to this story.