Last week, the governor proposed merging two correctional facilities both located in Cameron, Missouri, in order to save taxpayer dollars, increase wages among correctional officers and ensure the safety of the prisoners and the officers on staff.

Under the governor’s plan, the Crossroads Correctional Center will be consolidated with Western Missouri Correctional Center. According to the Department of Corrections (DOC), Crossroads Correctional Center currently holds 960 prisoners while Western Missouri houses 1,257 prisoners, which is only 65 percent of their capacity. I believe consolidating these facilities is truly a step in the right direction toward increasing efficiency in our criminal justice system, as well as creating a more stable financial environment for the correctional officers who serve our state.

One of the most concerning issues for me is that the DOC has not had enough personnel to fully staff its facilities. This means that for years the department has been facing two very daunting issues: high employee turnover and ensuring the safety of its employees and prisoners.

By consolidating the two correctional facilities, I believe the department will generate a substantial amount of savings that will allow it to address several areas of concern. DOC employees are among the lowest paid in the country and are in desperate need of financial assistance. In addition, the savings could be used toward training programs for DOC employees, as well as programming to help reduce recidivism rates among our state’s prison population.

In communities across Northeast Missouri, it is often difficult for residents to find jobs that pay well enough to provide for their families. By consolidating these facilities, current employees could potentially receive a three percent pay raise. This is certainly an incentive for current employees, who have not seen a raise in years, and for those who are considering a job at one of our state’s correctional facilities as a career.

As a business owner, I understand how frustrating it can be to have to deal with a high-turnover rate amongst your employees. Not only is training costly, but it can slow down production and create a bad reputation for the company. I also understand the financial loss that business owners incur when there are several unfilled positions for extended periods of time.
I hope this is only one of the many positive steps our state government plans to take in efforts to truly improve the quality of life for all Missourians. I look forward to having more discussions with my colleagues in the Missouri Senate on ways to improve the financial stability of our state government.

As always, I appreciate hearing your comments, opinions and concerns. Please feel free to contact me in Jefferson City at (573) 751-7985. You may also email me at cindy.olaughlin@senate.mo.gov.