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Prison murder video exposes Mo. DOC staffing crisis

The union for corrections officers said the latest numbers show the department about 900 officers down and dropping


KTVI-TV, St. Louis

CAMERON, Mo. — It happened in 2014 inside Missouri’s maximum-security prison: Crossroads Correctional Center, located approximately 50 miles north of Kansas City.

A prisoner slipped inside another man’s cell, waiting to attack. After the fight began, another prisoner ran to join the attack. The second attacker then began stabbing the inmate, who died as a result.

The first time an officer could respond was about two and a half minutes later.

Fox 2/KPLR 11 spoke with a former inmate who told us prison staffing is worse today. He said so many corrections officers are leaving that the prisoners are taking over.

“It’s times in my housing unit where an officer might disappear for 20 or 30 minutes and you’ve got free run of a whole housing unit,” he said.

Brandy Stockton said everyone should care what’s going on inside Missouri prisons. Her son is an inmate.

“Drake is set for immediate release in August 2020. He is going to be your neighbor,” she said.

She makes no excuses for her son, who is serving 15 years for second-degree robbery.

“Being an advocate for my child is not justifying the crime he committed,” she said. “All I’m asking for is that he be treated as a human being.”

Stockton said he was treated well in the beginning while at Jefferson City Correctional Center.

“It’s still prison. He still lives in a cell. He was just being treated like a human being when he was inside there,” she said.

Stockton said her son was in reach of his GED before a transfer to Crossroads, where she noticed a dramatic drop in staff and, in turn, disappearing programs.

“There’s no classes, there’s no skillset offered, there’s no jobs. Nothing,” she said.

Bill Schmutz, the former deputy warden at Algoa Correctional Center, said programs like that are invaluable, not only for the prisoners but society at large.

“Ninety-eight percent of the guys and gals going into the prison are going to be released. Do you want them coming back out worse?” he said. “If you don’t have the staffing to operate those programs, it doesn’t happen. It’s basically just warehousing people.”

Stockton said you cannot call that “corrections.”

“Isn’t that what they’re supposed to be doing: correcting behaviors?” she said.

Along with seeing fewer staffers, she’s noticed worsening attitudes and diminishing hiring standards.

“You can tell they’re fresh out of high school. They’re short-staffed. They have a billboard in Cameron, Missouri advertising that they need help,” she said. “I mean, who do they think they’re going to get?”

The union for corrections officers said the latest numbers show the department about 900 officers down and dropping precipitously, while those remaining are forced to work overtime; and the state of Missouri continues fighting a jury verdict to pay officers for every hour on the job.