Corrections chief speaks at Rotary Lombardi hopes for a day when fewer prisons are needed

By Fines Massey The Daily Record

The director of Missouri's prison system said Thursday that he hopes the state will one day be able to shut down some of its many prisons.

"I believe that my mission is that some day, it ain't going to happen during my tenure, that we should be able to start shutting down prisons because we don't need them anymore because people are being saved and productive," said George Lombardi, director of the Missouri Department of Corrections, to the Lebanon Rotary Club at its weekly meeting on Thursday.

When Lombardi first started working in the prison system 40 years ago, there were only about 3,000 inmates in the system of about five or six prisons. Now there are 10 times the amount of prisoners and about 20 prisons in the state.

Those prisons are very expensive to run, according to Lombardi. He said if the salaries and benefits of employees are included, it costs around $850 million to run the state's corrections system.

Lombardi attributes the explosion in the inmate population on many factors over the past few decades.

One major contributing factor was the de-institutionalization of mental hospitals. Without a hospital system, people with mental ailments were being put into the prison system, which was not equipped to deal with their prisoners' afflictions, Lombardi said.

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