The Rollercoaster: Justice Reinvestment, Corrections Day at the Capitol, Training Victories, Corrections Family Tragedies

Message to Staff: March 9, 2018

My message to all of you is way past due and I apologize for that, but I’m serious when I say “I have to be in the right mindset” or else it won’t be a REAL message from me. I have known for a couple of weeks I wanted to sit down and send a message but I didn’t know how to start and that’s the hardest part. Well, this morning it came to me, so here’s what’s on my mind this morning…

These last two weeks have been like a rollercoaster. Think about a rollercoaster, it moves fast, it goes up and down, twists and turns and you can’t stop it until it’s over; sometimes it’s exciting and sometimes it makes you feel bad but it all happens fast and you can’t control it. That’s exactly what the last two weeks have felt like for me and our department. 

I was on such a “high” last week. I started on Sunday (2/25) with a tour of Women’s Eastern Reception & Diagnostic Center and was so pleased with all the staff I met, my tour guide was awesome, so knowledgeable and at ease and respected by his peers. The staff gave some great suggestions and I’ve already discussed some with leadership and they are working to address them. 

Corrections had a fantastic work week at the Capitol building. The Justice Reinvestment Bill was well received by both the Senate and the House committees and was voted out of both. It is now on its way to rules committee. It has tremendous support and interest from stakeholders and legislators and I am cautiously optimistic about its passage.

Our first ever Correction’s Day at the Capitol on Tuesday (2/27) was phenomenal! Karen Pojmann and Garry Brix from our PIO office and Isaac Amon, our legislative liaison, with the assistance of an outstanding committee of all different types of employees from across the department put together the most amazing displays to show off how large we are, how diverse and good we are at what we do. I heard nothing but positive comments from legislators, the public, offender families, the 80+ staff we had there and our many different partners. It was such an exciting day for all of us. You were well represented. A day like that was a huge step in helping us educate the state about Corrections as a whole. 

Because of JRI and Corrections Day, I was in the Capitol the first three days of the week and every opportunity I had, I talked with many legislators about a pay raise for staff and how desperately we need to start somewhere and then continue to add on. It was well received and I am hopeful. I, along with your entire Executive Team, continue to talk about you, the work you do and the compensation you deserve!

On Thursday and Friday, I had the pleasure to travel to the northwest part of the state and visit Crossroads Corrections, Western Missouri Correctional, Maryville Treatment Center, Western Reception & Diagnostic Correctional, District 2, The OPS office in Cameron and District 1-S and the Community Supervision Center and P&P staff in District 1… and trust me when I say, I didn’t go in to “shake hands and kiss babies.” I spent time talking with all kinds of staff and could not have been more excited about everything I saw! The people I talked with and my “tour guides” were very impressive. At the institutions, I heard loud and clear that longevity, salary compression, pay and vacancies are top concerns and they are ours as well. I appreciated the professionalism and openness with which people spoke about their concerns. I was pleased to hear the feedback about the ENGAGES that have taken place. The P&P staff were equally as awesome. My meetings with them were great discussions about the future direction of their division and how everyone has a role. I continue to be impressed and inspired with their passion for their work. It was a great ending to a great week!!

Then, this week started on Sunday night with a call that a P&P Officer committed suicide. On Monday, we had a Correctional Officer’s son commit suicide. On Tuesday, one of our officers at WRDCC passed away unexpectedly. Also on Tuesday, P&P staff in Clinton lost a close LEO partner in a tragic line-of-duty death. On Thursday, two of our officers from Chillicothe Correctional were killed in a head-on collision on their way to work. My heart hurts for those who suffered these losses.

In the midst of these tragedies, the department began its supervisory foundation training for all supervisors in the department – The CORRECTions Way. I attended the pilot workshops for the training on Tuesday. So far, The CORRECTions Way workshops were incredibly well received. They will be coming fast and furious the next 30-45 days. I am very excited about this process and look forward to hearing more feedback about how it’s going, what’s working and what we need to tweak. I will send more out on this in the coming weeks as we get feedback. I want everyone to know how it’s going.

So, it really has been a roller coaster of emotions the past two weeks. That’s what life in this business is like. For this very reason, we must pay attention to each other, treat our co-workers with respect at all times, and keep moving forward. If any of you need a little extra help over the next days and weeks, please reach out to your team members, your PACT representatives, the EAP, or anyone who can provide you the support you need. We all handle stress differently. Please take care of yourselves and others.

In closing, I know I am not supposed to send a long message. I’m told “people don’t always read them” and I’m sorry for that, but I had a lot to say because these two weeks have been very impactful for me and our department. It’s a reminder of how much I care about each of you and the work we do for the state of Missouri. I wanted to share all of this with you because I know so many of you have been touched firsthand by the sheer excitement and tremendous sadness. 

WE ARE IN THIS TOGETHER AND I HAVE YOUR BACK! Thank you for what you do every day. Please help each other and stay safe.

Anne L. Precythe