Missouri prisons paring back as prison population drops

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Missouri plans to cut more than 1,700 beds at prisons across the state as a result of a drop in prisoners.

Department of Corrections spokeswoman Karen Pojmann said the number of prisoners has dropped from more than 33,000 in 2017 to about 26,000 as of Friday.

She attributed the drop to changes in Missouri criminal laws that led judges to sentence more people to probation instead of prison time.

Beds are being eliminated at the Algoa, Boonville, Tipton, Farmington, and Northeast correctional centers, as well as the Western Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center.

Pojmann said the cuts mean the agency no longer needs to fill about 130 vacant full-time staff jobs.

She said reducing beds is expected to save about $6.5 million and will allow the agency to avoid another $6.6 million in needed maintenance projects.

Pojmann says the department wants to reinvest that money into building repairs and other projects aimed at increasing safety.

"If approved, these upgrades will make our worksites safer, support field staff and ensure more efficient use of taxpayer dollars," she said.