by Scott Grammer
Staffing shortages in the Missouri Department of Corrections (MDOC) have been problematic for a number of years, due in part to a high turnover rate fueled by the fact that MDOC employees are among the lowest-paid in the nation, with salaries starting at $28,000 per year. In September 2018, there were 4,733 guard positions in the MDOC, of which 848 (18 percent) were vacant.
A May 12, 2018 “sit-in” by prisoners at the Crossroads Correctional Center was due to anger over lockdowns and cuts in recreation time and other programs caused by short-staffing.
In May 2019, Missouri officials announced they were awarding a six-month, no-bid contract to the Association of State Correctional Administrators (ASCA) to evaluate MDOC staffing levels. The purchasing document said the ASCA was “the only feasible source from which to acquire the custody staffing evaluation services since it is the only national corrections organization to provide the required operations, management and staffing analysis.”
However, MDOC director Anne Precythe also happens to be the ASCA’s treasurer and is a member of the organization’s executive committee – a potential conflict of interest.
“The custody staffing evaluation is our effort to bring in outside industry experts to conduct a shift analysis and review of staffing patterns in correctional centers to maximize efficiency and safety,” said MDOC spokeswoman Karen Pojmann. She added she did not know how much the state will be paying the ASCA for its evaluation, which recommended hiring 100 additional staff members.
In January 2019, Missouri Governor Mike Parson’s administration said it planned to consolidate the Crossroads Correctional Center and Western Missouri Correctional Center, and would use the cost savings to provide raises for most of the MDOC’s 11,000 employees.
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