(CAMERON, Mo.) Northwest Missouri lawmakers have visited Crossroads Correctional Center twice in one month.
State Rep. J. Eggleston, R-Maysville, said he and three other legislators spoke with prison staff about working conditions. CRCC is a maximum-medium security prison that houses about 1,400 prisoners.
It's been on lockdown for two months.
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.
Earlier this summer, Rep. Rusty Black, R-Chillicothe, Sen. Dan Hegeman, R-Cosby, and Rep. Allen Andrews, R-Grant City toured Crossroads and met with staff. Neither meeting was open to the public.
The lawmaker said in both meetings the staff expressed what life is like to do their job.
The DOC has been plagued by a chronic staffing shortage throughout Missouri. Statewide, out of approximately 11,000 total positions, 528 guard positions were open in July.
"Since May 13, 2018, 631 employees have left the department, and 522 have been hired," Pojmann said in an email. "This includes all types of positions in all divisions, facilities, districts, offices, etc. It also includes all types of departures: relocation, retirement, illness, dismissal, etc."
After the meeting between lawmakers and a group of CRCC staff, the details of the discussion were shared with the rest of Crossroads' staff. KQ2 learned from an employee, who asked to remain anonymous, that the lawmakers said the full picture of staffing woes had not been reported to Jefferson City.
"We were learning things at that meeting that we had not heard at the Capitol so my advice to them was if they think those things are important, come down to the Capitol. Sit in on a hearing and visit some of the other legislators face-to-face," Eggleston said.
The Maysville Rep. said it's important for legislators to hear from upper level staff that works in Jefferson City down to the people who work at the 21 prisons throughout Missouri.
"The folks in Jefferson city present their issues from the Jefferson City level which does reflect what the officers do but maybe not everything and all of the issues that officers have," Eggleston said.
Eggleston also said if corrections employees really want lawmakers to do something, they have to pressure all state legislators.
"We have 21 state prisons throughout the state but we have 163 House members so not every member has a prison in their district or nearby," Eggleston said. "It would be good for some of those corrections workers to come down and visit with those legislators."
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