Prison lockdowns raise questions about Missouri prisons

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Most prisoners will be released, which makes prison conditions everyone`s concern. Thousands of inmates are reportedly missing out on programs as Missouri's staffing crisis is putting more offenders in lockdown.

Former Algoa Deputy Warden Bill Schmutz said, “Ultimately the system`s going to break. We`ve had four good wakeup calls.”

Schmutz points to the maximum-security prison Crossroads as one of those wake-up calls. With its 1,500-prisoner capacity, a summer riot put it in an unprecedented 100-day lockdown.

Schmutz said, “Staff are overworked and stressed out. They start cutting corners.”

He says staff shortages are forcing prisons into lockdowns to keep everyone safe. That means shutting down movement to education and job training for inmates who might end up being your neighbor.

Brandy Stockton`s son is one them. She said, “He went to prison at the age of 19. He`s set for immediate release in exactly 23 months. So, he`s going to come home. He`s going to come home uneducated, with no training, no rehabilitation.”

Stockton testified at a public meeting in Jefferson City. She added, “You either close the facility immediately, in my opinion or you staff it at a level that`s safe for everybody that lives there and for everybody that works there.”

MO Representative Brandon Ellington arranged the meeting. He said, “I don`t see one person in here, where`s the Department of Corrections?”

He said the D.O.C. illegally denied him access this summer. He wanted to check on prisoners who stopped getting services. He documented his trip to the prison with his cell phone.

He asked aloud at the meeting, “What are you covering up?”

Bishop Tony Caldwell said Missouri is setting itself up for higher crime. He said, “To be treated like animals and then to be released back out on the streets and we wonder why our cities are the way that they are?”

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