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Mid-Missouri sheriff pans state plan to downsize prison system


In the State of the State address last week, Gov. Mike Parson announced a plan to downsize Missouri prison systems.

"We've identified a plan to consolidate the operations at Crossroads and Western Missouri facilities in Cameron, Missouri," Parson said. "This decision is largely driven by our dedication to find efficiencies where we can in state government, and this can be done while ensuring safety, improving security and delivering a much-needed pay raise all being done with no layoffs."

But Audrain County Sheriff Matt Oller wrote in a letter to Audrain County residents that this downsizing will put criminals in a prison system that is unable to hold them accountable.

"I'm telling you the state of affairs that our justice system is ... no laughing matter," Oller said in his Facebook post. "I'm furious by the fact that our local courts hand down sentences for crimes committed against our residents and our communities and Jefferson City basically thumbs their noses at them by refusing to carry out sentences handed down to criminals, and this only serves to make it worse."

Oller expressed his concern that offenders' sentences will not be upheld and the parole system will not punish violators.

"The incentive for good behavior on parole is not going back to prison," Oller said. "Now that's not even an incentive because offenders know they're not going back."

Oller said new laws could provide a solution to this problem. He suggested legislators enforce "truth in sentencing," which would have offenders stay in prison for the term in which the court originally sentenced them.

Karen Pojmann, communications director for the Missouri Department of Corrections, said the plan is not taking away any beds in Missouri prisons that are being used. Pojmann said the plan will get rid of existing positions that are already vacant within the DOC.

"No prison closures or facility consolidations are included in this plan," Pojmann said. "Closing housing units reduces staffing needs and enables the department to more effectively and efficiently staff all facilities."

Pojmann also noted that offenders are spending more time in prison.

"The percentage of an original sentence the average offender serves has increased slightly, from 50 percent in fiscal year 2015 to 53 percent in fiscal year 2020," Pojmann said. "The contention that offenders are being released earlier than they were in the past is false."

Article Topic Follows: Crime
Audrain County sheriffs office
department of corrections
Governor parson

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Molly Stawinoga

Molly Stawinoga is ABC 17’s weekday morning anchor and a reporter at ABC 17 News. Molly joined the news team in 2017 while studying political science, journalism and Spanish at the University of Missouri. She is originally from DeKalb, Illinois.


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