In 2019, the Missouri Department of Corrections deepened our commitment to the mission of improving lives for safer communities. Corrections teams throughout the state helped cultivate a better situation for Missourians. Here are just a few things we accomplished.
1. We invested in our staff.
2019 started on a high note for the Missouri Department of Corrections team. In his January State of the State Address, Governor Mike Parson announced a plan to consolidate the state’s two Cameron prisons and invest the savings in staff pay raises. By the end of summer, the consolidation of Crossroads Correctional Center with Western Missouri Correctional Center was complete, and the pay plan had been signed into law as part of the state’s budget bill. Developed by the department, championed by Governor Parson and approved by the Missouri General Assembly, the pay plan called for a 3 percent salary increase for all state workers, plus an additional and ongoing 1 percent increase for every two years of service, up to 20 years, for all non-executive corrections staff. The pay plan provided the largest pay increase in the department’s history without employee layoffs or additional offender releases, while the facility consolidation improved staffing levels statewide to help ensure safety. The pay increases went into effect Jan. 1, 2020.
2. We honored our heroes.
Six exceptional members of the corrections team earned the 2019 Director’s Award of Valor for saving fellow Missourians from life-threatening dangers in the previous year. Lloyd McCurdy rescued a toddler from the path of an oncoming semitrailer on a state highway. Jerry Wadley and Levi “Oz” Ozanich used de-escalation techniques to bring about the peaceful surrender of an offender who had taken a staff member hostage and was holding a weapon to her throat. Cade Thompson, Jason Huff and David Baker were instrumental in calmly and swiftly evacuating staff and offenders from a building during the onset of a major disturbance at Crossroads Correctional Center. (Watch the video ») Also recognizing selfless courage during the Crossroads event, Governor Mike Parson presented Huff, Thompson, Cody Ross and Andrew Fritzinger with the 2019 Governor’s Medal, which is awarded annually to a group of public safety officers in recognition of heroic acts above and beyond the call of normal duty.
3. We fought hunger on a global scale.
During two lively and gleeful days in 2019, Southeast Correctional Center changed the lives of 1,000 hungry children in developing countries. In partnership with La Croix Church, SECC raised funds to purchase high-nutrition food supplies and then packed meals for distribution through the organization Feed My Starving Children. In April, offenders, staff and community volunteers spent one day packing 163,000 meals – enough to feed 447 kids for a year. The SECC team then outdid themselves in November, packing 191,160 meals for 523 kids. (Watch the inspiring video ») To feed folks closer to home, correctional centers throughout the state grew fresh fruits and vegetables in prison Restorative Justice Gardens for donation to local food banks, shelters, senior centers and other organizations. Though the growing season was marred by storms and flooding, the gardens yielded more than 60,600 pounds of fresh produce for Missourians who need it, and chickens raised at Ozark Correctional Center produced 88 dozen eggs for donation.
4. We held back flood waters.
When storms and floods struck the state in the spring and summer of 2019, the Missouri Department of Corrections rose to the occasion. Supervised by staff working extra hours outside their usual shifts, more than 350 offenders from Missouri prisons contributed 1,548 work days to flood relief, filling and placing sandbags to save towns threatened by rising flood waters. Offenders and staff from facilities including Boonville Correctional Center (BCC), Chillicothe Correctional Center (CCC), Eastern Reception Diagnostic & Correctional Center (ERDCC), Moberly Correctional Center (MCC), Northeast Correctional Center (NECC), Women’s Eastern Reception Diagnostic & Correctional Center (WERDCC), and Western Reception Diagnostic & Correctional Center (WRDCC), took on rigorous sandbagging work near towns such as New Franklin, St. Joseph, Norborne, Brunswick, Kimmswick, Clarksville, Craig, Hardin and Henrietta. (Governor Mike Parson thanked participants in a video message.) Staff throughout the state also donated money, time and items to help Missourians affected by tornadoes and floods.
5. We built a better future for Missouri women.
Two years ago, Missouri had the nation's fastest-growing female offender population. Now we’re changing that trend. In 2019, collaborations between corrections teams and community partners have built a brighter tomorrow for Missouri women in the criminal justice system. In February, the Fulton Community Supervision Center (FCSC) was repurposed as the state’s first all-women's center for Missourians on probation or parole. Since then, dozens of women have completed the program and relaunched their lives with a new sense of purpose. They have reconnected with family members, found good jobs, committed to sobriety and welcomed new babies into the world, free from drugs. The residential center provides a gender-responsive and trauma-informed four-stage program in a therapeutic environment. Women take part in counseling, substance use treatment, job readiness and life skills courses, such as cooking and budgeting. (Watch the video ») In 2019, the ASPIRE MO entrepreneurship program graduated two classes of future businesswomen at Women's Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center (WERDCC) in Vandalia. Launched in collaboration with the Missouri Women's Business Center and the Missouri Department of Economic Development's Missouri Women's Council, the 20-week program follows the nationally recognized LaunchU intensive business training curriculum and culminates in the presentation of a business plan developed by each participant (watch the video »). Already a staple of reentry services in men's prisons, in 2019 the Connections to Success program expanded to Women's Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center, giving ASPIRE MO participants a double-dose of preparation for reentry into the community. Working with facility and reentry staff, Connections to Success provides 60 hours of intensive life coaching and employability-skills development. 2019 also marked a milestone for women working in corrections. For the first time, nearly half of Missouri’s state prison wardens, half of our probation and parole regional administrators and all of our division directors are women.
6. We prepared Missourians for the job market.
Learning the skills to do a job is one thing. Learning how to get and keep a job is another. In 2019, record-low unemployment left employers eager for skilled labor, and the Department of Corrections worked to fill the gaps. While continuing to expand and enhance vocational education and apprenticeships, in 2019 we solidified partnerships with organizations that prepare Missourians leaving prison for the process of finding, landing and advancing in good jobs. We partnered with the Missouri Central Workforce Development Board and Connections to Success to provide offenders with 60 hours of intensive life coaching complete with career assessments, résumé building, practice job interviews, preparation for questions about past felony convictions, and fittings for donated suits to wear to work and graduation (Miss U.S.A. attended one in Kansas City). Men released after graduation are finding success. (Watch the video ») We launched the first prison-based Urban League program in the national organization’s 100-year history; Save Our Sons at Algoa Correctional Center preps offenders with reentry and employability skills pre-release and then supports them through the organization’s vast network when they return to the community. We also brought the About Persons with Past Legal Issues in Employment Program (A.P.P.L.I.E.) program to Ozark Correctional Center, giving Missourians the opportunity to prepare for the work world and to complete in-person interviews with employers, sometimes securing jobs before release. (Watch the video »)
7. We helped Missouri men become better dads.
In 2019, Boonville Correctional Center launched a program to build better bonds between Missouri kids and their dads. On special Empowering Dads Embracing Fatherhood visit days, kids get four hours of one-on-one time with their dads who are incarcerated at BCC. Instead of sitting at a visiting room table, kids and dads play games, work on craft projects and even play outdoors. Launched in June, the program is designed for offenders who meet specific eligibility criteria and have children ages 4 to 17. Also helping cement bonds between incarcerated parents and their kids, Cory Crosby, a former offender and Missouri entrepreneur, published a children’s book titled “When My Dad Comes Home,” and corrections staff throughout the state contributed to the Angel Tree program to help provide holiday gifts for kids with parents in prison.
8. We opened reentry centers outside and inside facilities.
In October, we celebrated the grand opening of Columbia’s Reentry Opportunity Center, designed to help Boone County residents recently released from jail or prison find support and services. Led by the group in2Action and bolstered by a network of resource providers, the center provides a safe place for Missourians to get help tackling the challenges of reentering the community. In December, we opened the first reentry center ever to operate inside a Missouri state prison. A collaboration among government agencies, colleges and nonprofit organizations, Tipton Correctional Center’s Reentry Center gives offenders the chance to apply for jobs; explore education opportunities; get help navigating child support processes; participate in computer concepts training; and sign up for social services such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Missouri’s Medicaid program (MO HealthNet).
9. We developed major innovations.
In 2019, the State of Missouri introduced the Show Me Challenge, a competition inspired by the TV show “Shark Tank,” in which teams of state staff propose solutions that could improve how we serve our citizens — while also saving time or money. Team DOC Leak Busters, a group of staff from Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center, won first place in Cycle 2 with a plan to reduce wastewater, conserve natural resources and save as much as $82 million by installing low-flow plumbing features in state prisons. (Watch the video »)
10. We trained some exceptional dogs.
We like to think all the shelter dogs trained by offenders and adopted by families through Puppies for Parole are pretty special. But some are extra special. In 2019, Puppies for Parole graduate Pippa went into full Lassie mode after her new owner fell down a hill and suffered a concussion. The determined dog, who was trained at Western Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center, ran for help and led a neighbor to the spot where the woman was lying unconscious, prompting medical intervention and preventing serious brain injury. Another noteworthy dog, Max from Boonville Correctional Center, completed training at the University of Missouri Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction and became a service dog for a U.S. military veteran with disabilities. All Puppies for Parole participants earned extra recognition in 2019 when Royal Canin, the primary supplier of pet food for the program, sponsored a video celebrating the partnership. (Watch the video »)
11. We made groundbreaking advances in higher education.
Ten men at Missouri Eastern Correctional Center earned national attention in 2019 when they became the first class to earn degrees through the Washington University Prison Education Project. The students completed 60 credit hours in courses taught on site by Washington University professors and were awarded associate’s degrees during a graduation ceremony at MECC. Similar to the Wash U program, in other university partnerships, offenders and staff separately take Rockhurst University courses at Chillicothe Correctional Center and Saint Louis University courses Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center — all taught by university professors and offered free of charge. For offenders, we also have expanded vocational courses through State Tech and tablet-based academic courses through Ashland University. Other higher-education partnerships give our staff tuition discounts at Ashland University, Culver-Stockton College, Missouri State University, the University of Central Missouri and Southeast Missouri State University. Photo from St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
12. We expanded community treatment.
Approximately 88% of Missourians who enter Missouri prisons report recent drug misuse. Few have adequate access to treatment programs in Missouri before or after prison. In 2019, we strengthened the fledgling Justice Reinvestment Initiative Treatment Program, a partnership among behavioral health and corrections teams that provides substance use and co-occurring disorder treatment to high- and moderate-risk probation and parole clients who face challenges remaining engaged in community treatment. Supervising officers and providers collaborate to address barriers to treatment, such as housing, employment and other basic needs — an approach that boosts clients' participation in treatment and reduces revocations to prison. Launched in Boone, Butler and Buchanan counties, the program has begun to expand to other parts of the state.
13. We made big improvements to offender management.
When it comes to changing the mindsets and behaviors of people in the criminal justice system, we know a cookie-cutter approach doesn’t work. In 2019, we implemented components of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI) designed to address each person’s particular needs and strengths and help them stay out of prison. We adopted the Ohio Risk Assessment System (ORAS), a verified tool that staff use to assess offenders, target interventions and respond to behaviors. We redesigned residential community supervision centers (CSCs) for high-risk clients unsuccessful in traditional supervision who need intensive programming. We also refined the Missouri Offender Management Matrix (MOMM) and offender accountability procedure to help staff more effectively use sanctions and incentives to change behaviors.
14. We grew programs for veterans.
Two years ago, the department piloted the Missouri Veterans Project at Moberly Correctional Center, giving incarcerated United States military veterans the opportunity to mentor fellow veterans, complete post-traumatic stress treatment together, hold special events, function in a platoon-like environment within their housing units and better access Veterans Administration services before release. By 2019, veterans programs had expanded to Boonville, Algoa, Tipton, Potosi and Northeast correctional centers. Rep. Dave Griffith presented the department with a resolution recognizing these achievements. Missouri veterans involved in the criminal justice system also get support through special veteran caseloads in the Division of Probation and Parole, where officers work with Veterans Justice Outreach, veterans treatment courts and health care providers. To honor and help veterans in the community, during Veterans Week 2019, Missouri Vocational Enterprises donated 355 "Honor and Remember" flags to the Missouri Veterans Commission, and Restorative Justice groups painted murals for a VFW building and donated homemade stocking caps, necessities and monetary gifts to homes and organizations that serve veterans in the state.
15. We set the stage for evolution through the arts.
Participants in Prison Performing Arts developed literacy, communication and collaboration skills while performing Animal Farm at Northeast Correctional Center; First Impressions and The Tempest at Women's Eastern Reception, Diagnostic & Correctional Center; and Macbeth at Missouri Eastern Correctional Center. Some were featured in a film festival documentary explaining how the program changed their lives. A Washington University Prison Education Project participant earned honors in a writing contest open to all Wash U first-year students. A quilt block made by offenders at South Central Correctional Center won a competition to become the official quilt block of Texas County commemorative bicentennial quilt. Craftspeople in Restorative Justice programs continued the tradition of creating works of art to raise money for nonprofit organizations, raise awareness of important causes, and raise the friendliness level of kids on a playground.
16. We made big moves in business.
In 2019, the department made more inroads into the business world. We formed partnerships with more than 300 employers throughout the state who are willing to consider hiring workers with past felony convictions. Missouri Vocational Enterprises expanded its certified apprenticeship enrollment by 233% and grew the number of offenders working in its 22 industries by 16% — while cutting costs and boosting customer satisfaction. In recognition of workforce development achievements, including a horticulture certified apprenticeship in partnership with with Amazi Farms, the Sikeston Regional Chamber of Commerce named Southeast Correctional Center its 2019 Business of the Year.
17. We hosted visits from the Governor.
Governor Mike Parson traveled to four Missouri towns to talk with prison staff and get input regarding challenges, successes and plans for the future. The Governor met with groups of administrators and frontline staff from Crossroads Correctional Center (CRCC), Western Missouri Correctional Center (WMCC), Eastern Reception, Diagnostic & Correctional Center (ERDCC), Farmington Correctional Center (FCC) and Southeast Correctional Center (SECC) following the announcement that CRCC would be consolidated with WMCC. The meetings provided the corrections team with direct access to the Governor during a period of tremendous change.
18. We addressed spiritual needs.
A corrections environment can be stressful for staff, offenders, clients and families. To help support spiritual groundedness, in 2019 the department welcomed new programs. Members of the Catholic Church in the Jefferson City area formed the Adrian Group, a support network serving corrections staff members of all faiths. For incarcerated women affected by trauma, we partnered with author, speaker and Bible teacher Ann White to launch a Courage for My Life faith-based curriculum designed specifically for incarcerated women. Laying the groundwork for future peer ministers, we teamed up with Hannibal-LaGrange University to provide seminary training to selected offenders, preparing them to become pastors serving the incarcerated population; the academic program starts in 2020.
19. We gave back.
The corrections team is known for generosity. During the 2019 Missouri State Employees Charitable Campaign, our staff donated more than $120,000 to support organizations such as St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the Samaritan Center and the Food Bank for Central & Northeast Missouri — contributing to the total $958,000 raised by state workers in all agencies. Throughout the year, corrections staff stepped up to give back, holding tournaments to fund the Correctional Peace Officers Foundation; dipping into icy waters or running in severe weather to support Special Olympics; playing Santa to Missouri kids through Operation T.O.Y.S., Shop with a Cop and Shop with a Hero; and providing food, backpacks and school supplies for local students.