Missouri cuts funding for prison education programs
By Associated Press
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The day after Gov. Eric Greitens advocated increasing education and job training programs for inmates, he signed a budget that cut $1.4 million from Missouri Department of Corrections rehabilitation programs, with most of the reduction coming in education programs.
In a June 29 Facebook post, Greitens said programs that help inmates learn a trade, be better parents or earn a high school diploma "makes the millions of dollars of tax money spent on this system worth something."
The next day, he signed the budget reducing funding for those programs, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported .
Department spokesman David Owen said the agency won't reduce the number of educational opportunities offered to inmates but he acknowledged it will have to do more with less.
"The department will work to ensure it is fiscally responsible with the funds that have been appropriated in order to continue its mission of supervising and providing rehabilitative services to adult offenders in correctional institutions and in Missouri communities," Owen said.
Lawmakers faced with crafting the state's $27 billion spending plan said they had to find savings throughout state government because of an overall slowdown in state tax revenue. That included the reduction in money for rehabilitative services.
Rep. Kathie Conway, R-St. Charles, who chaired a House subcommittee on Corrections, said funding for teaching positions was reduced after the department acknowledged it hadn't filled all possible teaching positions for the past two years.
"We had no extra money. That was how we made that decision," Conway said.
Owen agreed that most of the reduction came from funding for personal services that lapsed in past fiscal years due to vacancies. But he said the department is currently offering the same educational opportunities to the same number of inmates.
Greitens has appointed a 21-member task force to develop legislation to address recidivism among the state's 32,000 inmates. The group met in July and will meet again in September.
Rep. Shamed Dogan, R-Ballwin, a member of the group, said lawmakers are worried reducing rehabilitation efforts could increase costs in the long run.
"My big concern is if we keep going on this track of incarcerating people, we're going to have to build a new prison soon. I don't think anyone has an appetite for that," Dogan said.