Missouri audit rates Department of Corrections inmate training program ‘fair’

September 09, 2023 07:03 AM

(The Center Square) – Republican Auditor Scott Fitzpatrick gave the Missouri Department of Corrections’ Vocational Enterprise Program a “fair” rating, but the department disagreed with several findings.

The rating indicates the department needs to improve operations in several areas.

“The report contains several findings, or one or more findings that require management’s immediate attention, and/or the entity has indicated several recommendations will not be implemented,” the report states in its definition of the rating.

Fitzpatrick found the department doesn’t perform adequate planning and oversight of the program to ensure its fulfilling its mission. There are vacancies on the organization’s advisory board and board meetings haven’t been held as required by state law, the audit reported.

Fitzpatrick also stated the organization’s programs aren’t aligned with the statutory purpose of training and employing offenders to be gainfully employed after they’re released.

“The purpose of this program is to help released prisoners integrate back into society by teaching them a marketable skill – benefiting them and their communities,” Fitzpatrick said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the department seems to have prioritized building a stable workforce of long-term offenders rather than supporting the program’s intended purpose of helping offenders gain the skills they need to find jobs when they leave prison.”

The department’s response letter, written by Valarie Moseley, director of the Division of Offender Rehabilitative Services, disagreed with four findings and suggestions.

The audit said hiring practices should be developed and emphasize employing offenders with few years remaining on their sentences.

“Ninety six percent of all offenders in MODOC custody are released back into the community,” the letter stated. “As such, it is imperative that all offenders are offered educational and employment opportunities, regardless of location or security level. … Ultimately, sentence length does not determine an offender’s appropriateness to a specific employment opportunity unless they cannot be properly trained in the time that they have remaining on their sentence.”

It disagreed the department should develop performance measures to be used for future program evaluation and stated benchmarks are included in an annual budget book, which is available online.

The audit suggested the department should review locations of program facilities and ensure they follow state law. The department disagreed and stated it will continue to ensure facilities are “within the primary goals” in state law.

The department agreed or partially agreed with seven other recommendations.

“There is no doubt the MVE program can have significant benefits for our state, but the Department of Corrections needs to implement corrective measures to realign the administration of the program with its goal of training individuals who will have an opportunity to use their skills outside of the correctional system,” Fitzpatrick said.