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No Early Inmate Release

August 28, 1997
By: Joe Stange
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Gov. Mel Carnahan's office insists there will be no early releases of any prisoners -- despite having to move 814 new inmates from Texas into already-overcrowed Missouri prisons.

By the end of this week, additional beds will have to be located in Missouri's prison system to handle inmates the state is transferring back from Texas.

Until two new prisons are completed early next year, the state's prisons will have to find room for the 814 prisoners withdrawn from a lease agreement with three Texas facilities. According to the Corrections Department, space will be utilized in prison gymnasiums, multi-purpose buildings, and all-weather tents.

"One of the reasons we were in Texas was to avoid putting prisoners in those kinds of places," said Tim Kneist, chief spokesman for the Corrections Department.

Those kinds of places will have to temporarily suffice, as Kneist said new prisons in Vandalia and Bowling Green are not expected to be on-line for another four to six months.

According to Carnahan spokesman Chris Sifford, the governor "has no interest" in the early commutation of any prisoner's sentences due to overcrowding.

"We are opposed to any sort of early release," said Sifford.

The inmates are being returned to Missouri following the cancelation of a rent-a-prison contract with Capital Correctional Resources, or CCRI.

Corrections Department Director Dora Schriro made the decision to pull the inmates after a videotape surfaced earlier this month. The videotape, recorded in the Brazoria County Detention Center, depicted deputies in riot gear using stun guns on the prisoners and allowing attack dogs to bite them.

The inmates withdrawn from Brazoria County numbered 415, while another 399 were housed in the Gregg and Limestone County prisons. Another 269 Missouri prisoners remain in Newton and Navarro Counties, but those facilities are managed by firms other than CCRI. Those 269 will be returned to the state next year when the new prisons are completed, said Kneist.

The Vandalia prison is slated to hold 1,460 women, while the Bowling Green facility will hold 1,975 men, according to Kneist. The prisons are part of an effort beginning in 1995 to wrestle with Missour's overcrowded correctional system.

"We are going to add 10,800 beds by the year 2000," said Kneist. "That will meet the needs of growth."

The final price tag for taxpayers will total over $483.5 million, he said.