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State Rep denied access into Crossroads Correctional to address concerns post riot

Posted at 5:15 PM, Aug 31, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-31 18:24:22-04

CAMERON, Mo. -- Missouri State Rep. Brandon Ellington was denied access into Crossroads Correctional Center on Thursday, which goes against a state statute that says he can visit any time. 

In his Facebook video, a woman tells him he is not allowed on site until he meets with the director.

Ellington showed 41 Action News several letters from disgruntled inmates, of which he says he's received over 20 since May.  The letters, and a huge riot that's had the prison on some form of lockdown since May, spurred Ellington's visit to the facility. 

"I came up there because the director's office has been intentionally avoiding my office," Ellington said. 

Ellington had met with Warden Ronda Pash, Director Anne Precythe, and a group of inmates from the honor wing mid-July. His office scheduled another meeting for Thursday, Aug. 30 to address the mounting complaints of continuing poor conditions. 

On Aug. 29th, they learned they wouldn't actually meet with any inmates. 

Karen Pojmann, spokesperson for the Department of Corrections, told 41 Action News the following:

"Rep. Ellington is allowed to visit any of our facilities at any time. He actually had requested not just a visit to Crossroads Correctional Center but a meeting with a large group of offenders. Because of safety and security concerns, Director Anne Precythe asked that he first meet with her to discuss the situation. Instead, he traveled to the facility, and when he arrived it was confirmed that the meeting wouldn’t take place that day and that cameras would not be permitted inside the secure perimeter." 

Ellington's office called Precythe's office multiple times before the visit on Thursday to set up the meeting, but they say Precythe never called back. 

"I think it's a whole bunch of issues, concerns, red flags and lack of transparency that not only needs to be highlighted in the public, but these folks need to be purged from the position in which they're in," said Ellington. 

Ellington's office filed a complaint with the governor's office and is planning to contact the state auditor's office.

"Not only do I want an audit of the warden's budget to see where her dollars are going, I need an audit of the entire facility to see how conditions got to that position," said Ellington. 

41 Action News has received several letters from prisoners since the riot in May, all highlighting the same issues: poor sanitary conditions, slow medical service, no hot meals and no recreation time. 

Pojmann says inmates now have access to daily showers, phone calls and an hour out of their cells Monday through Friday. She says since Aug. 9, 141 offenders have seen visitors, and they're holding three visiting shifts per day, four days-a-week. 

Pojmann maintains offenders have been provided cleaning supplies and medical care since May. 

The number of inmates working outside housing units has increased, she says. 

She says they hope to have hot food service restored after Labor Day, although they were supposed to have accomplished that in July. 

"Fortunately, additional construction materials are scheduled to be delivered to CRCC in the next few days, allowing us to complete the repairs and begin hot meal service as soon as possible," said Pojmann on Friday. 

According to an internal email from Isaac Amon, Director of Legislative and Constituent Services, by the beginning of September, the prison will

  • Increase mainline movement to two wings at a time for noon and evening meals.
  • Increase shower/phone rotations (in-house recreation) to twice daily, 30 minute limit. 9 cells at time.

According to the email, in which Amon instructs to be kept from offender families, by the end of September, the prison is supposed to resume full, normal operations.

"We look at inmates like they're throw-away citizens, regardless to whatever violation they may have done, the Department of Corrections in Missouri is not a privatized penitentiary; they have rules and regulations they have to follow," said Ellington. 

Crossroads received $11.4 million in funding for 2016, and the legislature approved a $12.8 million budget for 2018.