Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt wasted no time when he decided to close a state prison, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says. Days after his announcement last month, the state began moving inmates out of Church Farm, an aging, minimum-security lockup near the capital of Jefferson City. Today, about 140 of the 950 inmates are gone. In a few weeks, the prison will be empty.
A few legislators question whether the closing will leave the state with enough beds to house its burgeoning inmate population. The prison system adds about two inmates a day. Rep. Ed Wildberger predicts that at that rate, all 20 of the state’s institutions will be full within three months. Blunt promises to reopen Church Farm when the system hits capacity. Corrections director Larry Crawford is worried about additional budget cuts up for consideration in the House, which he says could mean closing yet another prison. “I’m looking for direction on how much public safety they want to buy and how they want to deal with” the latest cut, said Crawford, a former Republican House member. Last year, former Gov. Bob Holden tried to close a prison for women in Chillicothe, Mo. That town’s leaders hired lobbyists and presented studies showing that the town would be devastated if it lost the prison’s 200 jobs and $4.7 million payroll. Legislators agreed and kept the prison open.