Missouri’s governor is scheduled to announce details on Friday about his plan to consolidate two prisons in northwest Missouri’s Cameron.

House Minority Whip Brandon Ellington, D-Kansas City, answers a question from Missourinet’s Brian Hauswirth at the Capitol on January 16, 2019 (photo courtesy of Tim Bommel at House Communications)

Governor Mike Parson (R) wants to close the maximum-security Crossroads Correctional Center and consolidate it with Western Missouri Correctional Center, which is down the street.

Governor Parson met Thursday with Missouri Department of Corrections (DOC) leaders and officials from the two prisons to ensure a smooth transition. The governor says the plan would ensure safety and improve security, without layoffs.

Parson also says the plan would provide corrections officers with a “much needed pay raise.”

State Sen. Dan Hegeman, R-Cosby, who chairs the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, also participated in the meeting. The prison plan would require legislative approval, and the two prisons are in Hegeman’s district.

House Minority Whip Brandon Ellington, D-Kansas City, praises the Republican governor for paying attention to the issues at Crossroads, adding that he wants to see Parson’s plan.

“Since I’ve been here (he was elected to the House in 2011) we’ve had Democrat and Republican governors that showed little to no concern about it and I’m actually, again, elated that we have a governor that’s making it his top priority right now,” Ellington says.

Ellington has been raising concerns about Crossroads for several years, and invited families of inmates to speak to lawmakers in a House hearing room during the September veto session. The room was packed.

“The Crossroads facility has been allowed to fester all types of federal violations, from legal mail being locked down, etc.,” says Ellington.

The prisons are two of the largest employers in Cameron, which has about 10,000 residents. Parson, who will brief Capitol reporters Friday morning at 9 in Jefferson City, says his proposal will address corrections officer staffing shortages in Cameron.

The “St. Joseph News-Press” reports prisoners at Crossroads rioted for several hours in May, causing heavy damage to the prison and a lockdown that lasted several months. Governor Parson says there have been staffing shortages at Crossroads.

DOC Director Anne Precythe says the $20 million cost savings would give corrections officers the largest pay increase in state history.

Governor Parson received one of the loudest standing ovations during this week’s State of the State Address when he told lawmakers that he’s not interested in building more prisons.

House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, says Democrats support the GOP governor’s emphasis on criminal justice reform and alternative sentencing.

“We’ve been fighting for these issues for a very long time, and trying to bring them to the public spotlight for a very long time,” Quade says.

The governor is also emphasizing the importance of re-entry programs. More than 90 percent of Missouri’s incarcerated prisoners will be released, at some point.

Click here to listen to Missourinet’s Brian Hauswirth ask House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, and House Minority Whip Brandon Ellington, D-Kansas City, about the governor’s proposal to consolidate two prisons in northwest Missouri’s Cameron:

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