In November 2016, The Pitch, a weekly news source in Kansas City, released its first article in a series of scalding segments called ‘Prison Broke.’ Karen Dillon, the reporter, exposed the payout of $7.6 million in lawsuits resulting from claims of harassment and retaliation by former employees of the Missouri Department of Corrections. The revelation of these multi-million dollar suits caused the resignation of then DOC Director George Lombardi.
Subsequent articles shed light on individuals harmed by illegal behaviors within the department. The Missouri House of Representatives convened a subcommittee to investigate corruption within the Department of Corrections. Speaker of the House Todd Richardson selected Representative Jim Hansen as chairperson of the Subcommittee on Corrections Workforce Environment and Conduct. Other representatives on the subcommittee include Kathie Conway, Bruce Franks Jr., John McCaherty, and Tim Remole.
The first hearing consisted of testimony by Anne Precythe, the new Director of the Department of Corrections. Precythe made it clear that she wants to get to the bottom of the corruption within the department.
On February 16, 2017 the subcommittee met for a second hearing. Testifying on that date were Cari Collins, the Director of Human Services and Amy Roderick , the Inspector General. Neither were forthcoming in their testimonies, and neither wanted to claim responsibility for harassment or retaliation complaints within the Department of Corrections. During the hearing, committee members were clearly frustrated by the lack of transparency in the answers they received. Chairman Hansen referred to their testimonies as a “shell game.”
On February 23, the subcommittee reconvened. This time they heard testimony from two current employees of the department. This takes guts, folks. The pressure from within the prison system to remain quiet at all costs is immense. It was a courageous move for officers Case and Horn. For current employees to come forward to tell of the hellish working environment they have encountered for years, is a brave act. Since some employees have documented cases of life threatening acts of retaliation against them, the issue of prison corruption is nothing to be taken lightly.
Almost daily, new reports surface of the horrendous culture of fear that exists–that has been promoted by those at the very top of the Department of Corrections food chain–and it is little wonder that change must be on its way.
Contact your legislators. Let them know you won’t tolerate paying for a system of criminal activity masquerading as the “good guys.” The time has come, Missouri, for the Department of Corruptions to clean up its act.