By TONY BROWN Staff writer, Maryville Daily Forum
Missouri’s top prison official was in town Thursday to congratulate staff members at the Maryville Treatment Center on the occasion of the penal institution’s 20th anniversary.
George Lombardi, director of the Missouri Department of Corrections, called MTC and the 239 people who work there a “critical part of our operation” and praised employees for doing “an incredible job for the last 20 years.”
Located on Highway 136 near Maryville’s east city limits, MTC is a Department of Corrections minimum-security prison for male inmates located on the grounds of the former Mount Alverno motherhouse of the Sisters of St. Francis, a former Roman Catholic congregation of nuns.
The facility houses 561 offenders enrolled in either six-month or one-year substance abuse and behavior modification programs designed to prepare them for life outside prison walls following their release.
MTC Warden Gaye Colborn, who was named the prison’s lead administrator earlier this year, said MTC is unique among Missouri correctional facilities in that it offers inmates access to both Gateway and Department of Rehabilitative Service programs as they near parole or the end of the their sentences.
Colborn said both initiatives provide inmates with opportunities in such areas as cognitive development, overcoming substance abuse, and anger management.
The facility is also known for its participation in one of Lombardi’s signature projects, Puppies for Parole, in which inmates train and socialize dogs taken from animal shelters, including the New Nodaway Humane Society, in preparation for the animals’ adoption by permanent owners.
Speaking in the prison gymnasium to MTC staff and invited guests, Lombardi said MTC’s participation in Puppies Parole, and other efforts designed to impart the values of caring and compassion to criminal offenders, was a hallmark of its success.
He added that successfully preparing offenders for their release had slowed the “treadmill” leading to re-incarceration and forestalled the need to build more correctional institutions. Even so, Lomardi said, MDC’s total inmate population has increased from 22,000 in 1996 to 33,000 today.
Every time a former prisoner successfully makes the transition from a life of crime to becoming a productive citizen, Lombardi said, families are reunited, future offenses are prevented, and lives are transformed or even saved.
“Every encounter you have with an offender is meaningful,” Lombardi said. “If you want them to be caring and compassionate, you have to be caring and compassionate.”
Corrections professionals working to bring offenders “over from the dark side,” Lombardi said, are “a critical part of our operation, and you’ve done an incredible job of that for the last 20 years.”
Also speaking Thursday was state Rep. Allen Andrews, R-Grant City, who is a member of the House Corrections Committee.
Like Lombardi, Andrews thanked MTC workers for “helping those incarcerated here return to a normal life. … You have made this place what it is today.”
The MTC anniversary event also included recognition of 14 current staffers who have worked at the prison since it opened in 1996. They include Amy Chor, Brenda Jennings, Scott Parshall, Kristy Schmitz , Kevin Shirrell, Rhonda Steward, Debra White, John Dunlap, Kelly Parshall, Jessie Privett, Tom Seipel, Sheila Sowards, Ralph Wallace, and Judy Wonderly.