By Aziza Jackson
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Missouri Department of Corrections (MODOC) recently announced a new plan that, if approved by the General Assembly, will help address two chronic department issues: a staffing shortage and low employee wages. The department plans to consolidate Crossroads Correctional Center (CRCC) and Western Missouri Correctional Center (WMCC); both facilities are prisons for men and located in Cameron. The plan calls for moving CRCC workers to WMCC and other understaffed facilities nearby and investing the savings in wage increases for all 11,232 MODOC employees. A recent statewide decrease in the prison population puts the department in a position to consolidate two of their 21 adult institutions without causing crowding in other facilities.
- The pay increase is the biggest in the department’s history.
- There will be no employee layoffs in this process.
- The changes will improve staffing levels statewide and help ensure safety.
- This will not require offender releases.
- No other prison consolidations are planned.
In his State of the State Address on Jan. 16, Gov. Mike Parson voiced support for the plan. “This decision is largely driven by our dedication to finding efficiencies wherever we can in state government,” said Parso. “This can be done while ensuring safety, improving security and delivering a much-needed pay raise.”
MODOC employees currently are among the lowest paid in the country. The pay rate, coupled with a healthy economy and competitive private-sector job options, has hampered the department’s recruitment and retention of corrections officers.
The job vacancy rate peaked in September 2018, when 848 of the 4,733 Corrections Officer I positions were open. Concerted recruitment efforts yielded improvements by the end of 2018, but vacancy rates remain high, requiring overtime for staff. The staffing shortage has been particularly pronounced in Cameron, which holds two prisons, CRCC and WMCC, in one small community. Both facilities currently have empty housing units and staff openings. The department plans to modify the medium-security WMCC so that half of the prison can house maximum-security offenders. CRCC will go into caretaker status.
With the savings garnered from the prison consolidation, the department plans to add to the recently announced 3 percent pay increase for all state government employees, providing MODOC employees with an additional 1 percent raise for every two years of continuous Department of Corrections service, up to 20 years. With the implementation of initiatives designed to reduce recidivism, the prison population is expected to remain steady or decline further, bolstering the sustainability of the pay plan.
“These are demanding and challenging jobs, and the safety of our employees, our offenders and our communities depends on our staff,” said Missouri Department of Corrections Director Anne Precythe. “Since I started in this position two years ago, increasing wages has been my top priority. We are mindful of our responsibility to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars, so we found a creative way to help fund raises with money already in our budget.”
No layoffs will occur as a result of the consolidation. All current CRCC employees have the opportunity to transfer to open positions in other facilities. There are no plans to consolidate any other prisons.