Protesters call for end of Missouri prison lockdown
JEFFERSON CITY - Two groups protested outside the Missouri Department of Corrections Monday morning with hopes of ending the 127 day long lockdown at Crossroads Correctional Center near Cameron.
The Kansas City Freedom Project and Kansas City Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee chanted and held signs saying "inmates are human too" and "terminate Warden Pash."
"These men had their constitutional rights violated," said Latahra Smith of the KC Freedom Project.
The facility was put on lockdown May 12 after a riot broke out in the prison's dining area.
Missouri Department of Corrections spokesperson Karen Pojmann said it started after inmates began throwing food and broke into the kitchen and storage area.
Protesters said they believe inmates have been subject to harsh conditions and mistreatment throughout the lockdown.
"Some have lost anywhere from 25-85 pounds because of being part of this long-term administrative lockdown where they have not been receiving hot meals regularly," Smith said.
She said "all of this" is happening because the facility is understaffed. Pojmann has acknowledged that's a problem.
Pojmann said the riot caused significant damages.
"The kitchen was destroyed and it was a very complicated process to fix it," Pojmann said. "We had to serve pre-packaged food instead."
For a time, inmates received cold, pre-packaged meals. There have been delays in replacing special security doors in the dining area.
Pojmann said, "We can't end it until the area is completely secured and safe."
She also said inmates weren't given the required one hot meal per day because of damage to the kitchen. On Sept. 4, inmates were finally served hot meals.
Smith said families visiting the center were warned the inmates might look very different.
"Can you imagine going to see your loved one and the guards say, 'Let me warn you, your husbands lost a lot of weight,' preparing the family members before they go in there because these men look skeleton and bones," Smith said. "It’s horrible and that’s why we are here today."
Pojmann said the department is hoping to lift the lockdown sometime this week.