Prisoner relocation prompts union rep’s concern for public safety
The Missouri Department of Corrections confirmed medium-security prisoners are relocating to their new home at the Wester Missouri Correctional Center Monday.
More than four months removed from Gov. Mike Parson’s state of the state address, where he announced the consolidation of the Crossroads Correctional Center and the Western Missouri Correctional Center, medium-security prisoners began moving from Crossroads to WMCC as part of a planned, multistage relocation.
“It’s ongoing throughout the summer, but it is underway,” said Karen Pojmann, public information officer for the Missouri Depart of Corrections. “It’s not necessarily a one-to-one transfer. We’ve been working on getting populations down in both facilities for the last several months.”
Pojmann said the consolidation of both Cameron facilities came as a result of reduced incarcerations statewide. Since Gov. Parson’s announcement in January, both complexes began preparation for relocating the medium and maximum-security prisoners at Crossroads to WMCC, which houses minimum and medium-security prisoners. With the inclusion of maximum-security offenders comes state-mandated conditions the facility must meet, including construction of an electrified fence.
“By state statute, that requires us to build an electric fence around the perimeter of half of the facility,” Pojmann said. “When built it will be in two nodes so that should make it pretty easy to keep the two populations separate and also to be able to put in the secure fence. That’s underway right now. It’s under construction now and it has to be done before we can relocate the maximum-security offenders.”
Pojmann’s words come in direct conflict with those previously made to the Citizen-Observerby Tim Cutt, a union representative with the Missouri Corrections Officer Association. Cutt contacted the Citizen-Observerafter receiving multiple reports of from union members of transporting maximum-security prisoners to WMCC, which he said posed a direct threat to the public.
“Cameron started moving inmates today, even though we have no electrified fence operating … They were supposed to move 150 inmates this week with no fence,” Cutt said. “It’s a little disconcerting with level-5 maximum security inmates going to a medium security facility with really no viable way to keep them in there. It’s not legal. It violates several federal guidelines.”
Cutt said he could not reveal the names of the prison employee who blew the whistle on the incident, but said he began receiving messages Sunday night.
“Their plan is to fence only half of the thing. Even that doesn’t fall into the federal guidelines, especially since it’s not even up and running yet,” Cutt said. “… They plan on transporting those guys soon - without a fence. If the citizens of Cameron heard that they would be outraged. A lot of the cell doors over at Western are keyed. A lot of the inmates have keys to their own doors and on one side of the prison they are not going to be able to do that. The locks are not even installed on the doors. They’re not ready for this at all.”
In a follow-up interview, Pojmann maintained only medium-security inmates are relocating to the facility and there are no plans to relocate the maximum-security prisoners until the electrified fence is up. Should the need arise for an immediate relocation of maximum-security prisoners, Pojmann said there are provisions within state statutes allowing for maximum-security inmates to stay at a facility without an electrified fence if a fence is under construction.