The state House is recommending the Department of Corrections make several policy changes to battle sexual harassment, bullying, retaliation, and favoritism among its employees.
After news articles last fall brought such issues to light, as well as millions of dollars in settlements with the state by former Corrections employees who had been victims, the House formed a subcommittee to investigate the work environment in the Department.
Representative Jim Hansen (R-Frankford) chaired that subcommittee. He and other members heard what they called “disturbing” reports of harassment and treatment of employees over the last few months, as current and former Corrections employees offered testimony.
Hansen said some of the subcommittee’s key recommendations are the implementation of a zero tolerance policy toward harassment; a change in how complaints are handled; the creation of a hotline for taking employee complaints with a mandated 24-hour response to calls; and a review of how employees are promoted and trained.
Hansen said some of those recommendations have already been implemented under the Department’s new director, Anne Precythe.
Hansen expresses a lot of confidence in Precythe to improve the environment in Corrections.
“It’s in the bottom of the first [inning] or to top of the second – however you want to look at it – but so far she’s made a lot of the right moves,” said Hansen. “There’s a lot of good employees out there and we’re asking them to be part of the solution and not the problem, to help her, and with time I think that she’ll get the changes done that need to be done.”
Hansen hopes House Speaker Todd Richardson (R-Poplar Bluff) will keep the subcommittee active so that it can follow-up on the Department.
Other recommendations included standardizing policies and procedures across all institutions except with department director’s approval, and increasing the minimum age of employment from 18 to 21.
Hansen thanked the members of the subcommittee and said each of them took seriously the task of hearing what was going on in the Corrections Department and recommending changes.
Some earlier stories: