Prison Consolidation a Smart Step Toward Better Government
One of the most interesting announcements that the governor made at his State of the State speech last month was the proposed closure of a state prison facility, Crossroads Correctional Center. At first, I thought there would be some political pushback to the consolidation that was suggested, given that every prison is of course situated in several elected officials’ districts and is generally a pretty big employer.
That pushback didn’t materialize, though, because not only would jobs not be lost, but the workers at Crossroads would be employed at a nearby facility. Specifically, when I heard it mentioned during debate on the Senate floor that Crossroads was across the street from the facility it would be consolidated with—the Western Missouri Correctional Center (WMCC)—at first I thought that was an exaggeration. “Across the street?” Really?
But lo and behold, Missouri has had two prisons operating across the street from each other for about 20 years now:
Why it took so long to consolidate the prisons, I’m not sure. Because Crossroads is a maximum-security prison, security will have to be fortified in at least part of WMCC, to the tune of about $3 million. Perhaps that was the reason. But that $3 million is a small price to pay for even larger savings, and from a good governance perspective, it sure looks like bringing these facilities together is the right call. Missourinet elaborated on the reasoning for consolidation:
The department has been battling to fill hundreds of correctional officer job vacancies. [State Department of Corrections Director Anne] 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.
This consolidation may have been in the works for a while, but whatever its genesis, it’s an elegant solution to saving taxpayer money and reorienting, if ever so slightly, the state’s criminal justice strategy. If the state can build fewer prisons and push potential inmates back into being contributing members of society, Missourians on the whole will be that much better off.