MISSOURI.– The Missouri Department of Corrections says as of 2017, Missouri had the fastest-growing incarceration rate of women in the country.
Missouri has two state prisons for women; we visited one of the – Chillicothe Correctional Center in Livingston County, Missouri – and looked at how offenders are living behind bars preparing for life beyond bars.
I couldn’t show you everything I saw inside. There are more 1,330 offenders at Chillicothe and each one of them would have had to sign a release form to allow me to shoot video of them. But staff and students did allow me to go into their cosmetology class, which takes place in the vocational training wing.
“It’s nice to sit in a chair and have your hair done because that’s not something you’d think you’d be able to do in here,” Cynthia Chaluisant told me. She’s an inmate at Chillicothe.
The hairdressers are inmates. Each offender has their own work station, just like cosmetology would out in the “real world.”
In there students complete 1,220 hundred hours to be certified. And to be a client, inmates have to be violation-free for 90 days and fill out an application.
“It’s nice,” Challuisant said. “It kind of takes you out of here, you know.”
She about halfway through her three-year sentence.
“Trying not to think about it until it gets a little closer,” she said.
She is in for drug charges from a case in 2013 – possession of a controlled substance – a Class C felony. While at Chillicothe, she says she tries to focus on other things.
“We currently made a Mississipi Mud Brownie recipe that is to die for,” she said.
She has graduated from the culinary arts program. Chaluisant earned a Serve Safe certificate required for some jobs in the food industry and now tutors other inmates in the class. The job is Monday through Friday from 9 am – 4 pm.
“It just gives me a sense of purpose, which is really important when I’m here,” she said. “It also keeps me in a daily routine of having a job, which is something I want to get used to because when I leave I’m going to be at work all day.”
“The more education and training they get here the less likely they are to re-offend and come back,” said Sharon Grant, career and technical education supervisor at Chillicothe.
Grant is the supervisor of the vocational programs at Chillicothe. She showed us around where classes take place. One of those classes is basic customer service.
“They also have their own phone system in there. They can’t make outside calls, but they have people that are making calls and people that are answering. So, that they know the proper etiquette, phone etiquette. So, that they can work at a call center or be a receptionist,” Grant said. “There are specific jobs that we are channeling that class too.”
Customer service, business technology, gardening, culinary arts, and cosmetology are some of the vocational training courses offered by the Department of Corrections.
Anne Precyte is the Director of the Department. She says the DOC is focusing on the full continuum from prison, vocational training, supervision, and re-entry into the community.
“My peers across the nation, we are part of a new generation thinking about how people should be treated, what is our responsibility is at the DOC to afford the opportunity to be contributing citizens when they return to our communities,” Precythe said.
Tonight at 9 on Ozarks Fox, we will learn how the re-entry system works. We will meet one woman who works inside the prison helping offenders prepare resumes, find jobs and housing as they get closer to their release date.