Governor Mike Parson says moving most Crossroads Correctional Center (CRCC) workers and inmates to Western Missouri Correctional Center (WMCC) in nearby Cameron is a good business plan. Parson, a Republican, wants to wait and see what the prison population is like before deciding what to do with the empty space at Crossroads.
“We want to make sure that’s available. If there was ever a time we felt like the tide had turned a little bit and we had to incarcerate more, then we would want to have that available,” he says during a press conference at the Missouri Capitol in Jefferson City. “For right now, it’s going to stay in place to see if whether we need it or not. Hopefully down the road, we can refit that for some other piece of state government where we might be able to use it where it helps the state, is what we would take a look at.”
Crossroads will have a small number of workers staying on the premises to run the power plant that provides electricity to both prisons.
Changes in Missouri law and sentencing more offenders to probation instead of prison are being credited for the state’s declining prison population and the merging of the two institutions. The state operates 21 prisons with about 30,200 offenders.
WMCC, a medium-security institution, launched in 1988. Crossroads, a maximum-security prison, opened in 1997. State Department of Corrections Director Anne Precythe says WMCC holds more offenders than Crossroads.
“Western (Missouri Correctional Center) has close to 1,900 beds. Crossroads (Correctional Center) has 1,100 beds,” says Precythe. “So, we have to move over there. Plus, there’s more programming available, there’s more space, opportunity for us to allow the population to participate in more activities, which is really what keeps them busy, which is really what keeps it a safer environment.”
Precythe says the plans do not require legislative approval.
The state has budgeted $3 million to convert half of WMCC into a maximum-security prison.
“The one major upfit we have to do for Western (Missouri Correctional Center), is we have to put, statutorily, a lethal fence around half of the prison,” she says.
The department has been battling to fill hundreds of correctional officer job vacancies. Precythe says the reorganization plan will create a fully-functioning, safe environment, versus trying to “limp along” with two half-staffed, half-full institutions.
The estimated $20 million savings from closing CRCC is slated to give department employees, minus executive staff, a one percent pay raise for two years of continued service. If Parson’s proposed three percent state worker pay increase happens, then corrections workers would get another raise. Precythe has touted the pay boost as the largest in the department’s history.
“The beauty of the whole plan is that it gives my staff, who are exhausted, who are stressed, who are working so much mandatory overtime, a well-deserved pay increase. So, we think this is a win-win for the State of Missouri,” Precythe says.
She says there has been a positive reception from community leaders. Precythe says corrections administrators there say workers are relieved.
“Staff are relieved – relieved that they are going to be in a safe environment when this merger is completed, that it will be a fully-staffed facility. There will be a full compliment of offenders in there. It’s going to allow more offender programming, more offender movement,” she says.
The governor says bold ideas are necessary to move the state forward. During his State of the State address last week to the Missouri Legislature, Parson said he’s not interested in building more prisons. He received a bipartisan standing ovation for the comment.
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