With few inmates left, Missouri prison nears closure

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri prison is closing soon as part of a push to consolidate resources and increase guard pay, staffing and safety.

While the Missouri Corrections Department has not said exactly when the Crossroads Correctional Center in northwest Missouri will close, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Thursday reported that a prison guard union leader said the number of prisoners at the facility is dwindling.

Missouri Corrections Officers Association Executive Director Gary Gross told the newspaper that there are only 100 to 120 inmates still at the prison.

“I think they are really close to shutting it down,” Gross said.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson’s administration pushed to close the prison, which could save an estimated $20 million. The savings are set to be used for staff pay increases.

The hope is that consolidating the maximum-security prison with another one nearby also will address short staffing and improve safety.

Crossroads’ closure comes about a year after hundreds rioted over conditions at the prison that were exacerbated by sparse staffing and high employee turnover.

Shuttering the facility is possible partly because of a drop in inmates statewide. Department of Corrections spokeswoman Karen Pojmann said the total statewide prison population was 28,141 as of early July, down from 32,008 in April 2018.

Officials point to recent changes to the state’s criminal code and sentencing laws that took effect in 2017, including an end to jail time for first-time offenders convicted of having small amounts of marijuana.

Missouri already transferred many prisoners from Crossroads to other maximum-security facilities statewide, but some will move to the neighboring Western Missouri Correctional Center. Both Crossroads and Western Missouri Correctional Center are in Cameron, about 50 miles north of Kansas City.

Western Missouri Correctional Center will be converted to a half maximum-, half medium-security prison to accommodate new inmates. Officials budgeted about $3.3 million for extra fencing, razor wire, another observation tower, more patrol vehicles, improved locks and other changes.


Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com