Staff Newsletter | August 2020

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missouri department of corrections

Employee Newsletter   |  August 2020

Head of the Class

Education Superstars Innovate Through Obstacles


Academic Teacher III Teresa Dobson teaches smaller groups of students in a room set up for social distancing.

August is Back-to-School Month. For most of Missouri, the shape school takes in fall 2020 remains uncertain. But in the Department of Corrections, stellar education teams already have found ways — amid COVID-19 restrictions, staffing challenges, technological limits and other obstacles — to keep school in session.

The implementation of viral containment strategies in Missouri prisons has created new challenges for education staff. Group-size limits affect classrooms meetings. Volunteer restrictions have halted in-person college courses and other academic support. Solutions that may work in the outside world — streaming video, web-based learning modules — don’t always translate in prison, where unfettered internet access can threaten institutional security.

MODOC educators have had to get creative.

Finding Flexibility


Education plays a huge role in the department's mission of improving lives for safer communities.

In Fiscal Year 2020 (which ended June 30), the MODOC Academic Education team served 8,116 offenders working to earn high school equivalency credentials. Of those who took the HiSET exam, 96.5% passed.

Last year Career and Tech Education served 1,279 offenders, who earned 1,583 professional certificates  — with some offenders earning multiple certificates.

Educational Pursuit

In our new climate, education staff have rearranged schedules to create smaller in-person classes and avoid contact among students from different housing units. They've developed extra materials for learning outside the classroom. They also have taken on extra duties to compensate for volunteer absences and staffing shortages.

“Our education staff as a whole have been FANTASTIC!” says Education Zone Manager Lynette Creed. “We just can’t say enough about them.”

As the first team to deal with COVID-19 inside an institution, Southeast Correctional Center education staff immediately created supplemental paper packets for offenders to use in the housing units while helping out other teams that were short staffed. Education Supervisor Shelli Feinburg, for example, has supported all members of the SECC family while implementing new education processes.

Tackling Tablets

tablet content

At Algoa Correctional Center, academic supervisors, career and tech supervisors, and their teaching and support teams agreed to pilot a plan for entering supplemental education resources on offender tablets.

Team members including academic teachers Jessica Schram and Adrienne Moeller (pictured) upload readings, videos, quizzes and other educational materials to sync with JPay tablets.

Students can keep learning between sessions, doing school work in their housing units or cells.

Offender tablets

Each semester, more than 500 offenders enroll in Ashland University tablet-based college courses. Those classes continue, and offenders are still earning college credits using an app on JPay tablets. Since the pandemic started, though, site directors employed by Ashland have been unable to visit facilities in person to work with students.

So, MODOC educational supervisors have picked up the slack — while also continuing to do their own jobs amid new challenges and stresses.

Erica Williams

These education heroes include Erica Williams (pictured) from Algoa Correctional Center, Tracy Monteer from Boonville Correctional Center, Greg Smith from Eastern Reception Diagnostic & Correctional Center, Bill Fountain from Moberly Correctional Center, David Pershing from South Central Correctional Center, Tena Potts from Tipton Correctional Center, Christy Shelton from Women's Eastern Reception Diagnostic & Correctional Center, Martin Montgomery from Western Missouri Correctional Center and Deborah Taylor from Western Reception Diagnostic & Correctional Center. Amanda Brakefield, an office support assistant, filled in at Farmington Correctional Center.

Wearing Many Hats

Greg Smith

In corrections, some educators go way above and beyond.

In the midst of the pandemic, Education Supervisor Greg Smith transferred from Missouri Eastern Correctional Center to Eastern Reception, Diagnostic & Correctional Center.

Because a statewide hiring freeze delayed his replacement, Smith continued to also work remotely for MECC, taking on additional duties at both sites.

greg-smith floor

That isn't all. Smith also serves as a trainer and a Corrections Way Ambassador. At MECC he developed and presented a 30-day Corrections Way plan, and he has continued his ambassador work at ERDCC, conducting leadership walks and sharing best practices.

“He brings a ton of experience and is willing to help out whenever and however he can,” says Education Supervisor Heather Cofer.

Evidence: This photo of Smith buffing a floor.

Want to give a shout-out to a great educator or education team? Let us know! Email a photo and a description of their awesomeness to

College for Corrections

Colleges and universities partner with the Missouri Department of Corrections to expand education opportunities for staff. Many provide tuition discounts and offer college credit for completion of corrections training. See the complete list on the staff intranet site. 


Baker University: 15% tuition discount

Columbia College: 10% tuition discount to all Missouri state government employees; Partners in Corrections program discounts; free textbooks

Culver-Stockton College: 10% tuition discount

Drury University: Criminal Justice Program; credit hours for Department of Corrections training

Lincoln University: Criminal Justice Program

Lindenwood UniversityCriminal Justice Program

Mineral Area CollegeCriminal Justice Programs; credit hours for Department of Corrections training

Missouri State University: 10% tuition discount; 15% discount on MSU Public Safety Training Center courses

Missouri Western State UniversityDepartment of Criminal Justice, Legal Studies and Social Work

Ozarks Technical Community College: Criminal Justice Program; flexible schedule; corrections staff portal

Park UniversityCriminal Justice Administration Program; 10% tuition discount


Purdue Global University: 20% undergraduate and 14% graduate tuition discounts; criminal justice programs; credit hours for Department of Corrections training

Rasmussen College: Justice Studies; 10% tuition discount

Rockhurst University: Free on-site college courses at Chillicothe Correctional Center  

Saint Louis University: Free on-site college courses at Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center

Truman State UniversityJustice Systems Program; 10% tuition discount

University of Central Missouri: 5% tuition discount online and Lee's Summit campus; 15% discount for certifications and training through the Missouri Safety Center and Extended Studies; credit hours for Department of Corrections training

University of Phoenix: Criminal Justice Program

Washington University: Free on-site college courses at Missouri Eastern Correctional Center 

Western Governors University: Tuition reimbursement; scholarships; credit hours for Department of Corrections training

The Next Generation


The Correctional Leaders Association scholarship program helps to make sure the next generation of the corrections family has ample access to education.

This year Lacy Roberts, daughter of Farmington Correctional Center Case Manager Lisa Roberts, is the recipient of the 2020 Susan M Hunter Scholarship. College-bound children of corrections professionals throughout the United States compete for 40 $1,500 renewable scholarships. This year more than 800 students applied, including 44 applicants from MODOC families. Congratulations, Lacy! Keep making us proud!  

Safety Through Empathy

The Transformative Power of Crisis Intervention Training

Scott O'Kelley

A research paper on the use of Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training in prisons, coauthored by Offender Rehabilitative Services Assistant Division Director Scott O’Kelley, has been published in the journal Criminal Justice and Behavior.

The study finds CIT training can expand corrections officers’ mental health knowledge as well as their perceptions of options for managing offenders with mental illness. Access "Utilizing Crisis Intervention Teams in Prison to Improve Officer Knowledge, Stigmatizing Attitudes, and Perception of Response Options»

When MODOC first piloted CIT, uses of foce dropped by more than 50%. Now the department provides CIT training to about 300 staff members each year, equipping them with the skills they need to recognize mental health issues, verbally de-escalate tense situations and prevent major crises. CIT improves outcomes for people with mental illness and makes facilities safer. O'Kelley explains the purpose, training options and benefits of CIT in this video »

Down to Earth

Restorative Justice Feeds Missouri


Staff help incarcerated Missourians volunteer to give back to people in need throughout the year. In the spring and summer months, those with a green thumb pitch in to help children, seniors and other people affected by food insecurity.


The Ozark Correctional Center Restorative Justice prison garden is feeding Missourians all summer. So, far case manager John Lewis and his crew of workers have raised and donated more than 620 pounds of produce to the Kings Food Pantry in Seymour. The harvest includes onions, potatoes, cucumbers, green beans, squash, zucchini and radishes.

Want to help? Donate 12-pack or 18-pack cartons to hold eggs, money to help cover utilities, or volunteer work time to keep the pantry up and running. More »


By the end of July, volunteers led by Functional Unit Manager Brian Boyer in the Restorative Justice garden program at Eastern Reception, Diagnostic & Correctional Center had harvested more than 450 pounds of vegetables and fruits for donation to Elvins Food Pantry and other local organizations.

Located in Park Hills, Elvins Food Pantry serves local people in need. To volunteer, donate egg cartons or offer other help, contact the pantry »

mecc - garden

Anthony Whitford from Missouri Eastern Correctional Center presented Feed My People with 10 trays of fresh fruits and vegetables grown in the prison's Restorative Justice garden.

Founded in 1982, Feed My People is one of the largest organizations of its kind in the St. Louis area, with food pantry and thrift store operations, as well as job counseling and healthy homes programs, serving low-income Missourians through locations in South County and High Ridge. Want to help? Learn how »


Southeast Correctional Center is home to a new bee community.

SECC team members Matt Raymond and David Achter captured a swarm in East Prairie and transported the bees to a hive at the Charleston prison, where they have become part of the pollinator partnership formed earlier this year with Missouri Department of Conservation. 


In addition to maintaining pollinator-friendly native plants to support all types of Missouri bees and butterflies in the wild, SECC plans to train offenders in beekeeping skills as part of a reentry path.

Honey harvested from the beekeeping operation will be donated to local food banks.

June 2020 Employee of the Month


Sarah Lee, a Probation and Parole Officer at District 32 in Lexington, works tirelessly to help people. While maintaining a huge client caseload and keeping probationers and parolees on track, she goes out of her way to support her teams. Lee works as a job coach for fellow staff. She serves as an adjunct trainer, teaching classes in mental health first aid, staff suicide prevention, the Missouri Offender Management Matrix and new-staff training. She also finds ways to boost staff morale, through community service and volunteer projects. Her selflessness and professionalism serve as an inspiration not only to her clients and her team but also to the department.

Working Smarter


When MODOC’S Planning & Grants Unit discovered that grants staff and accounting staff were doing overlapping work, they got together with the accounting team to figure out how to be more efficient. A newly formed committee spearheaded by Jeannie Lairmore and Melisa Rohrbach completed a process map with color-coded steps to indicate which area should be responsible for each component. The team then examined duplications, redundancies and unnecessary steps and proposed a revised process that would boost efficiency while meeting all grant and accounting requirements. The new, streamlined plan simplified the process, from 73 steps to 50 steps  — a win for operational excellence.

Making Missouri Leaders


Deputy Warden Beth Johnson, Deputy Warden Courtney Schweder, and Unit Supervisor Ryan Halbert are the latest members of the Missouri Department of Corrections team to complete the Missouri Leadership Academy.

The academy gives emerging leaders in Missouri state government the opportunity to collaborate across agencies on projects that improve the effectiveness of what we do and help make life better for the Missourians we serve.

Selected participants work on creative, strategic and practical problem solving and present their projects to the Governor's cabinet.

Beth Johnson and her team presented remote-work solutions. Courtney Schweder and his team tackled inclusion and diversity. Ryan Halbert and his team focused on staff wellness.

Congratulations to the new graduates!

COVID-19 Sentinel Testing Wrapping Up


On Juy 31, MODOC completed mass testing of all staff and all offenders at Potosi Correctional Center and Western Missouri Correctional Center — 3,342 people in all — with ZERO new cases of COVID-19. 

Earlier this month, Jefferson City Correctional Center continued its COVID-free status, completing mass testing with ZERO cases of COVID-19 among offenders and staff. Limited visiting resumes at JCCC Aug. 6.

Mass testing of offenders and staff at corrections facilities continues next week and is expected to be completed by Aug. 13. August testing locations include: Kansas City Reentry Center, Missouri Eastern Correctional Center, Transition Center of St. Louis, Moberly Correctional Center and Northeast Correctional Center.

Missouri Data in Context

Compared to all other state departments of corrections in the United States, Missouri ranks in the top 11 for COVID testing rates (more offenders tested per capita) and remains well below the national average for infection rates, according to data from the COVID Prison Project. Missouri's prison COVID infection rate is lower than that of all bordering states except Illinois; four bordering states’ prison systems rank among the hardest-hit in the country, according to the Council of State Governments. Also, the positivity rate inside Missouri prisons remains lower than the positivity rate for the Missouri population as a whole.

States with lower infection rates also have lower testing rates. Missouri's implementation of mass testing has helped to identify and isolate asymptomatic cases of COVID-19.

Our corrections teams have helped contain this virus and make Missouri safer. Big thanks to the staff who have implemented the department's rigorous viral containment strategy and taken necessary precautions, inside and outside of work, to protect the health of our teams as well as offenders in our care.

Fiscal Year 2021 Strategic Plan

Fiscal Year 2021 Strategic Plan

Staff Wellness

Taking Care of Your Physical Health


Ready to get fit?

Anthem, the medical plan administrator for the Missouri Consolidated Health Care Plan, is offering a discounted fitness programs, with fees waived through Sept. 30.

Options for members include access to fitness centers, digital workout videos, live streaming fitness classes and one-on-one lifestyle coaching in fitness, nutrition and wellness.

To get started, lot into Anthem and select “discounts.”

Taking Care of Your Mental Health

DMH Cares

Join the Missouri Department of Mental Health 3:30 - 4 p.m. Tuesdays for help with stress management.

DMH CARES (Communicating and Reaching Employees Supportively) is a live, interactive wellness webinar held on Web-Ex every Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. for all state employees as well as their families and friends. Each week the program explores a different mental health and wellness topic and provides self-care tips. 

Register online at the State of Missouri Webex site. 

DMH CARES is sponsored by Show Me Hope, Missouri’s FEMA Crisis Counseling Program.

Quarterly Pulse Survey Closes Aug. 7

Thank you to every team member who has completed the quarterly pulse survey for Missouri state government staff. Your participation demonstrates your commitment to improving the department.

The deadline to complete the survey is Friday, Aug. 7. You should have received a message from the Office of the Governor with a unique link to the survey. If that message is not available, you can still complete the survey here »  

This quarter's survey asks about directionleadershipprofessional development and engagement. It also includes questions about how the department has responded to and communicated about COVID-19 during the public health crisis.

All responses are confidential.

Questions? Get more information here »

Missouri Department of Corrections in the News

Your great work is making headlines. Check out news media coverage of the exceptional role corrections teams are playing in keep Missouri safe.

august news


Improving Lives for Safer Communities


Excellence in Corrections for a Safer Missouri


We value safe work environments, a capable workforce and reduced risk and recidivism.
We value integrity and respect.
We value supportive leadership.
We value employee participation and teamwork.

Staff News

Be a Better Listener


We're working hard to recruit and retain staff and to make our department a great place to work. Actively listening to coworkers helps create a better environment. 


  • Be attentive and focused.
  • Ask questions, and get clarification.
  • Demonstrate your understanding by summarizing and repeating back what has been said.