The Missouri state legislature is addressing statewide prison staff shortages through salary increases in the supplemental budget.
About a month ago, two Missouri Department of Corrections prison facilities in Kansas City and Fulton temporarily closed due to staff shortages. More than 100 inmates were transferred to the Western Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center in St. Joseph and the Western Missouri Correctional Center in Cameron.
Missouri legislators said the shortage tends to stem from staff not being compensated enough for the conditions and hours they work.
“I think largely it’s salaries and working conditions and driven by staffing shortages and the need to get more staff in there,” said Missouri State Senator Dan Hegeman, R-Cosby. “We’re working hard to address that, so we can continue to have a robust law-and-order system.”
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson proposed raising salaries through amendments to the supplemental budget. On Monday, the Senate Appropriations Committee, which Hegeman sits on, passed the supplemental budget bill.
“Just recently, the governor brought some amendments for the supplemental budget to try to enhance the salaries and get the salaries up, so that we can not only attract new individuals to work in prisons but also retain individuals to work in the prisons,” Hegeman said.
House Bill 15 is a $1.5 billion supplemental budget appropriating funds for a number of items, including $235,559 to the Missouri Department of Corrections.
Hegeman said other efforts to help with the shortage, such as decreasing the prison population, will provide a safer environment for staff.
“This kind of goes along the line of the ... efforts to try to look at ways of diversion and working with people to keep them out of the prisons and work with them to make them productive citizens of the society,” Hegeman said.
More public hearings are scheduled, and a balanced budget must pass before the legislative session ends May 28.
“We’re really working hard to try to address the shortage, get more individuals interested in a prison career and move forward so that we can continue to incarcerate the folks who have been adjudicated into the prisons,” Hegeman said.