(CAMERON, Mo.) A handful of Missouri lawmakers and corrections officials met to discuss prison working conditions at Crossroads Correctional Facility Thursday.
The Department of Corrections media contact, Garry Brix, said the meeting was not open to the public.
Republican state Sen. Dan Hegeman set up the meeting through the Department of Corrections. He invited CRCC staff, a couple DOC Administrative officials, and area lawmakers. The meeting was slated to last about 30 minutes but it ran for three hours, Hegeman said. The Senator said he arranged the meeting so he could speak with corrections employees about what lawmakers could do to help alleviate staffing woes.
78 prisoners destroyed facilities and equipment in a six-hour riot that began the night of May 12 and continued into the early hours the following morning. DOC officials said the riot was caused by a staffing shortage at the prison. Prisoners were upset that less staff was leading to less time for recreation and other programming, said Karen Pojmann, a corrections department spokeswoman.
Statewide, out of approximately 11,000 total positions, 528 guard positions are currently open. CRCC is a maximum-medium security prison that houses about 1,400 prisoners.
Rep. Rusty Black, R-Chillicothe, Rep. J. Eggleston, R-Maysville, and Rep. Allen Andrews, R-Grant City, also attended the meeting and listened to prison employee concerns. Hegeman said he would describe the discussion as "frank," but productive. KQ2 has a follow up interview scheduled with the lawmaker Friday.
KQ2 reached out to two other officials who were invited to attend but could not. Rep. Jim Neely said he was on a family vacation so he could not attend. Cameron City, Manager Mark Gaugh, said the city was not sending anyone to the prison meeting because of an emergency water issue.
But this was not the only meeting that happened at Crossroads prison Thursday. A town hall for inmates vent frustrations and express concerns was also held. Prisoner advocacy leaders and Department officials attended the town hall including Latahra Smith, founder of the non-profit advocacy group KC Freedom Project.
"There's two main problems, one is you have inmates whose voices have simply not been heard," Smith said. "The second issues is we have corrections officers who are simply underpaid and you have both sides now. They are saying we want to be heard, we want to be heard."
She said something has to change.
"They are both legitimate issues that need to be heard," Smith said. "That are state legislatures need to pay attention to because if not, this is not going to be a good situation."