Charleston prison dedication Sept. 21

Saturday, September 8, 2001

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Spared the extra budget withholdings that will affect many state agencies and services, the new South East Correctional Center in Charleston, Mo., will open this fall as scheduled.

The maximum security prison, which cost $70.9 million to build, will be dedicated Sept. 21. The first group of inmates will be transferred to the prison from others in the state in October.

The prison eventually will house as many as 1,596 inmates and employ 445 people.

"We will gradually fill the institution, which will probably take about four to six months," said Tim Kniest, a Missouri Department of Corrections spokesman. "We will bring in a number of inmates every week or so. We've found that an effective way to fill a new facility."

Kniest said slowly filling the prison gives both corrections officers and inmates time to adjust to their new surroundings.

Because of projected shortfalls in state revenue growth, Gov. Bob Holden this summer instructed many state departments to withhold up to 18 percent of their planned appropriations from general revenue for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. The corrections department was largely spared from the withholdings, setting aside only 3.9 percent of its $482.5 million general revenue budget. Even in strong economic times, state departments are required hold 3 percent of their budgets in reserve.

The Charleston prison has a budget of nearly $7.58 million for the current fiscal year and was not targeted for additional withholdings.

Donna McCondichie, superintendent of the Charleston prison, said only some minor finishing touches remain to be done. McCondichie said she and prison staffers are anxious for the prison to become operational. "We are ready to get started, get going and start receiving offenders," McCondichie said.

The prison's first warden is a 17-year veteran of the corrections department. McCondichie, who holds a bachelor's degree in education from Lincoln University and a master's degree in public administration from the University of Missouri, started her career with the department as a prison guard. Prior to taking over at Charleston, she was assistant superintendent at the Potosi Correctional Center, where the state carries out executions.

Cooperation with Charles-ton citizens and businesses has been instrumental in start-up operations going smoothly, McCondichie said.

"I think the greatest thing we have here is the support of the community and the excitement they have for us being here," McCondichie said. "That has really been a plus."

The public is welcome to tour the prison Sept. 22 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sept. 23 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

mpowers@semissourian.com

(573) 635-4608

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