Four years after riot, Missouri moving inmates back into prison

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri prison officials have reopened a closed prison as they reshuffle plans for a new staff training facility.

The Missouri Department of Justice last week moved inmates to Crossroads Correctional Center in Cameron, leaving behind an adjacent jail that will one day become a correctional officer academy, agency spokeswoman Karen Pojmann said.

A total of 1,184 inmates moved to Crossroads on November 7. She said prison staff said the move went smoothly.

Crossroads was empty after prisoners were moved following a May 2018 riot.

The riots began when 209 inmates refused to return to their housing units. They were upset that staff shortages coupled with the guards’ low pay left less time for recreation and other programs.

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The prison was brought back under control after six hours of rioting, which left an estimated $1.3 million in damage to the dining halls, kitchen and storage areas.

Crossroads, which cost about $53 million to build, first opened 25 years ago. Early features included a deadly electric fence, the first of its kind in Missouri. The fence was nicknamed “The Intimidator”.

After the riot, Gov. Mike Parson said mothballing the prison would save an estimated $20 million, which could be used to provide long-needed raises to wardens and other prison employees.

Meanwhile, conversion of the nearby Western Missouri Correctional Center to a training facility is underway and subject to budget decisions by the Missouri Legislature.

“We don’t have a concrete timetable or cost estimate yet, but the project will be one of our priorities for the coming legislative period,” said Pojmann.

Department plans show that some of the cell blocks will be converted into apartments for trainees.

A central part of the prison becomes classroom and office space. The gym becomes a fitness facility for trainee employees. And the space that was formerly the institution’s library will become a resource center and computer lab for trainee staff.

The facility, which will replace training programs held at St. Joseph, aims to improve the high staff turnover rates that have plagued government agencies in recent years.

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