BOONVILLE — Boonville Correctional Center is one of six Missouri prisons to be impacted by the closure of inmate housing units as part of Gov. Mike Parson’s plan to shrink the state’s prison system, which he announced last week in the State of the State address.

The Missouri Department of Corrections will eliminate approximately 1,750 offender beds as part of its plan to close inmate housing units in the Boonville Correctional Center, Algoa Correctional Center in Jefferson City, Western Reception Diagnostic and Correctional Center in St. Joseph, Northeast Correctional Center in Bowling Green, Tipton Correctional Center and Farmington Correctional Center.

The closures are due to a significant drop in the Missouri inmate population over the past several years. The average daily inmate count statewide was 32,512 for fiscal 2018 and 28,246 in fiscal 2019, which ended June 30, a 13.1-percent decline in a single year.

The department also shut down the prison in Cameron last year, which will save the state about $22 million each year, Parson said. The governor’s plan also includes the elimination of 131 vacant employee positions in the department.

Though Parson did not specifically mention that more positions would be eliminated, he said at a Purple Heart dedication in Cooper County on Wednesday that he plans to reduce inefficiencies.

“You’ve got to be efficient sometimes with what you’re doing,” Parson said. “The state, for a long time, has allowed a lot of people in a lot of different areas. Frankly, we’re not getting very good output from some of those areas, so if you really need to keep them you’re kidding yourself.”

The savings from the closed correctional center, closed housing units and eliminated positions will help to further invest in workforce development for inmates.

The decrease in overall inmate population can be attributed to recent reformation of the state’s criminal code and an emphasis on workforce development skills for inmates, Parson said.

“We’re really trying to prepare people who are incarcerated so they can go back into the workforce,” Parson said. “It used to be that we had people confined, but didn’t give them the skills to go back out.”

He referenced a shortage of semi truck drivers in the state and how inmates could be trained to drive the trucks while still in prison.

“There is no reason why we’re not teaching incarcerated to drive a truck,” he said. “[We need] to teach basic skills while they’re in there to be able to go back out into society and get a job.”

The ultimate goal of the state’s prison system is to reduce recidivism and rehabilitate inmates to where they can be productive members of society, Parson said.

ecliburn@moberlymonitor.com