Missouri’s prison director meets with Correctional Officers on staffing crisis

BOWLING GREEN, Mo. – The director of Missouri’s Department of Corrections held a pair of meetings Friday at the Bowling Green VFW, located near the Northeast Correctional Center, which was the site of a recent partial lockdown.

Last week, prisoners demonstrated in a couple of housing units, leading to a standoff and then the lockdown of those two units. That stress added to a correctional officer staffing crisis that’s been boiling over.

Fox 2/KPLR 11 attended the first of two meetings hosted by director Anne Precythe. She acknowledged an employee shortage and said the department was doing what it could to find new workers.

The current crisis has forced officers to work overtime. Many of them are single parents who said they may not find out they have to work a double until the time they show up. Precythe, who was appointed less than two years ago by former Governor Eric Greitens, said the department can expect positive changes and she hopes more help is on the way.

“We’ve got to find a way to work together and cover each other and cover the shift to make sure we’re as safe as we can be on the inside until we can get enough staff that people can start going home after their normal shift,” Precythe said. “We’ve got a plan, it’s just going to take us a little longer to get there.”

Officers said the department is losing good employees at a frightening rate that will only continue if things don’t change. Missouri pays its corrections officers among the lowest salaries in the nation. Director Precythe said the department is aggressively recruiting sometimes using billboards and videos on social media.