Missouri auditor investigating gift card incentives given to offenders

FOX Files
Data pix.

CALLAWAY COUNTY, Mo. – Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway is investigating the state’s Department of Corrections. She wants to find what you might be paying to give incentives to offenders after they’re released from prison.

“When sheriffs are asking these questions from the Department of Corrections and not getting answers, that is very concerning because they’re the front line of dealing with these offenders,” Galloway said.

Fox 2’s recent Crumbling Corrections reports have featured concerns from sheriffs across the state of Missouri.

“Just let our community members really know what is going on behind the scenes," Callaway County Sheriff Clay Chism said in January.

One example is a probation and parole offender management matrix.

The Department of Corrections website says it was established after a 2017 task force meeting with sheriffs, crime victims, and prosecutors to fight violent crime rates and prison overcrowding.

That meeting reportedly led to an outline of possible rewards like a “gift card” – “pass to a local attraction” and “transportation voucher.”

“How are they accounting for those? How many are passed out? Who is getting them and are there boundaries or restrictions on how those are handed out to offenders?” Galloway said. “There’s a potential of taxpayer dollars being utilized for this incentive program. We want to get to the bottom of it.”

The Department of Corrections website says “taxpayer dollars are not used to pay for incentives.”

“They need to show us,” Galloway said. “You can say that, but we want to see the documentation. We want to understand how the program is administered and are there taxpayer-funded staff that’s taking their time to administer this program?”

As far as giving gifts to offenders? The Missouri Department of Corrections says “most incentives have no monetary value” and that “using reinforcements in response to positive behavior is a more effective motivator than only using sanctions in response to poor behavior.”

A corrections spokesperson said they've already answered the auditor, reporting incentives have only cost just over $1,200—paid for by inmate funds—not tax dollars. The director added that corrections officers don't hand out any rewards, rather they come from charitable groups.

Galloway said we could hear her investigative results by as early as next week.

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