Missouri Downsizing Prisons to Save Cash
Budget director Dan Haug said, ‘‘What they are doing is they are consolidating space within various prisons around the state, closing certain housing units and those types of things.”
The Missouri Department of Corrections (DOC) housed 33,000 prisoners in 2017; the January 2020 prison population stood at 26,000. Changes in the state’s criminal code, replacing incarceration with probation in many cases, accounts for the drop in population.
DOC spokesperson Karen Pojmann noted that the plan will close housing units at Northeast Correctional Center in Bowling Green, Farmington Correctional Center, Boonville Correctional Center, Algoa Correctional Center in Jefferson City, Tipton Correctional Center, and Western Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center in St. Joseph.
“Closing housing units reduces staffing needs and enables the department to more effectively and efficiently staff facilities, boost safety and reduce mandatory overtime,” Pojmann said. “We’re hoping these changes also can reduce staff stress and improve retention.”
In addition to removing 1,756 beds for prisoners, the plan will also obviate the need for filling 131 currently vacant staff positions. It will save the state approximately $6.5 million and help it avoid more than $6 million in pending repair and maintenance projects.
The DOC plans to use $3 million to add more radios in all of its facilities, in addition to repairing security cameras. Other upgrades scheduled include the vehicle fleet used by probation and parole officers, plus work on building repairs throughout the prison system. Also to be addressed is long-running understaffing in the DOC, which as of January 2020 had 823 guard vacancies, many of them purportedly due to harsh working conditions and low pay.
Parson’s recent closure of the Crossroads Correctional Center in Cameron, combined with the plan’s proposed changes, will account for a reduction of more than 2,600 DOC beds over a one-year period. Pojmann said, “If approved, these upgrades will make our worksites safer, support field staff and ensure more efficient use of taxpayer dollars.”