Western Reception, Diagnostic & Correctional Center
The history of this site begins in November 9, 1874 when the St. Joseph State Hospital (originally called State Hospital for the Insane #2) opened its doors. This site operated as a mental health hospital for nearly 127 years. More information on the unique history of the pre-corrections years can be found at Legends of Missouri. In 1997 a mental health services were moved to the newly build Northwest Missouri Psychiatric Rehabilitation Center across the street from the old hospital while turning over the old ground to the Missouri Department of Corrections.
Retaining much of the historic aspects of the buildings, the Western Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center located in St. Joseph, Missouri officially opened in September of 1999. The reception and diagnostic facility serves an area comprised of thirty (30) counties in the western region of the state receiving newly sentenced offenders, probation/parole returns and treatment offenders.
WRDCC, originally a satellite of the Western Missouri Correctional Center, was established in 1993 to aid in combating that year’s great flood. One building on the grounds of the St. Joseph State Hospital was utilized to house the minimum security offenders who aided the community with the massive devastation left by the flood. In 1994, the Park Building Treatment Center became operational; again utilizing a building formally occupied by the St. Joseph State Hospital. The facility as it now exists was approved for construction in 1996. The total acreage of WRDCC is 168 acres, 71 of which are located within the secured perimeter. The current complex has an official capacity of 1,968 beds and is comprised of three major components; the reception and diagnostic center, a treatment center, and general population housing units.
Reception and Diagnostic Unit
The center piece of the facility is the reception and diagnostic center. The three-story 220,000 square foot building houses the facility’s administrative offices, control center, medical facilities, food service operations, visiting room, receiving area and diagnostic offices. A five-story structure connected to the main reception and diagnostic building provides secure housing for 529 offenders, with additional saturation beds if needed, who are undergoing diagnostic screening prior to their initial institutional assignment. Staff assigned to work in this maximum security area utilizes sophisticated electronic security systems to monitor and control offender movement throughout the complex. All diagnostic processing, which normally takes approximately forty days, is conducted within the diagnostic unit. The diagnostic unit processes approximately 425 offenders per month. Offenders are screened for medical needs, mental health needs, substance abuse treatment needs, education levels, vocational skills, and custody levels. Upon completion of the diagnostic process the offenders are assigned to a facility that meets their security and rehabilitative needs. Since opening in September 1999, WRDCC has processed over 50,000 offenders.
The Western Region Treatment Center, which is a part of the greater facility, houses 595 offenders participating in 120 day or 180 day treatment for alcohol and substance abuse. The facility utilizes a modified therapeutic community model along with small group programming to deliver treatment services. Treatment staff assigned to the unit strives to provide treatment services and prepare the offenders for release to the community upon successful completion of their programs.
General Population Housing Units
WRDCC’s two general population housing units house 700 general population offenders along with an additional 50 offenders participating in substance abuse treatment in the Partial Day Treatment Program. Offenders assigned to the general population are minimum security offenders who are assigned to institutional jobs and may be assigned to the work release program if they meet the established criteria. There are also 56 diagnostic overflow beds in one of the general population units.
Approximately 650 staff (state employees and contract personnel) work at the facility. In addition to their work at the facility, staff are involved in community activities and services. They donate thousands of dollars each year to adopt local families in need during the holiday season and to the State Employee Charitable Campaign. Staff also make cash donations (through the WRDCC Personnel Club) to women’s shelters, youth facilities, and other worthy community causes to include Special Olympics and volunteering assistance to Habitat for Humanity.
Puppies for Parole
The most recent addition to our facility has been the Puppies for Parole Program, which began on July 7, 2010. Since the start of the program we have trained over 200 dogs. We are proudly one of several institutions that have established a shelter dog program and has accepted dogs from our local animal shelter. This is a cooperative venture with the animal shelter and other community organizations to provide a safe, clean, and humane environment for the care and training of rescued dogs with the hope of making them more adoptable. This program trains offenders that meet certain criteria to teach socialization skills and provide nurturing to these dogs. The dogs live with the offenders and will include providing obedience and house training skills, proper diet and health monitoring, and prepare the dogs for adoption. There are several benefits to being afforded the privilege of operating a program of this nature, such as saving these dogs from euthanization, developing stronger community ties, teaching offenders a valuable skill, and these programs have demonstrated improved offender conduct. This program is in Housing Unit #6.
Transitional Housing Unit
The Missouri Reentry Process is a major aspect of the operation. In 2004, the Transitional Housing Unit (THU) at WRDCC was one of the first five THU’s in the Department of Corrections. It was located in Housing Unit #6 and occupied the third floor. On September 21, 2005 Executive Order 05-33 established a permanent inter-agency Missouri Reentry Process (MRP) Team with the mission to “integrate successful offender reentry principles and practices in state agencies and communities resulting in partnerships that enhance offender self-sufficiency, reduce re-incarceration, and improve public safety.” Since this time, State agencies have collaborated to provide needed services to prepare offenders for their return to society. WRDCC’s efforts have been in the forefront of this initiative and continue to work with the community and partnering agencies to provide services and resources to offenders so they have a smooth transition into the communities you and I live in.
WRDCC’s Transitional Housing Unit has grown significantly in terms of offenders involved and resources available. This is due to the hard work and dedication of the staff and partnering agencies. Due to the increased services, it became necessary to incorporate the 2nd floor of Housing Unit #6 into the Transitional Housing Unit. This essentially doubled the number of offenders participating. Currently, we have 256 offenders benefiting from the services provided.
When offenders are six (6) months from their release date they are assigned to the Transitional Housing Unit. The offenders are assigned to a case manager and they work together to review the Transitional Accountability Plan (TAP) that was developed with them. This includes reviewing what they have accomplished during their incarceration, what they still need to work on, and what assistance they will require to successfully return to society.
In addition to a case manager, these offenders have access to the Institutional Activities Coordinator (IAC) to assist in receiving assistance and provide such services as:
- Obtaining birth certificates
- Obtaining social security cards
- Obtaining a Missouri State identification
- Provide information regarding Driver’s License Reinstatement
The THU is currently focusing on resources for offenders throughout the state, updating and expanding our current data base of resources, expanding our offender resource library, and the continual education of the offenders regarding the Missouri Reentry Process, Transitional Housing Unit, and most importantly their successful reentry into society. These efforts contribute to reducing crime and recidivism thus making our neighborhoods and communities safer for all.
If they have not attended programming prior to assignment to the Transitional Housing Unit, offenders will be assigned to the CORE Programs. These programs include:
- Pathway To Change – a cognitive restructuring class that focuses on how offenders think and make decisions, as well as gives them the tools to make better decisions.
- Inside Out Dads – This focuses on positive parenting skills and keeping the father involved with their children.
- Anger Management – A program which focuses on alternative ways of managing and expressing anger.
- Impact Of Crime On Victims – This program helps offenders look at the victims of their crimes and how their actions affected them.
We also offer faith based resources which have been established by our Chaplain as well as our IAC. At this time we have the following groups who meet with offenders on a weekly basis to address reentry issues:
- Mentoring Programs through local churches
- Circles of Transformation – a non-denominational reentry support group
- Celebrate Recovery – an addiction support group through Recovery Prison Ministries
- Refiner’s Fire – an addiction support group through Baptist Bible Temple
- Financial Peace University – a financial support group through The Keys At The Cross Prison Ministries.
Restorative Justice is the giving back to the community which creates a sense of belonging to the offender and eases the re-entry process back into our/their community. A few activities and recipients include: used stamps collected for the Wounded Veterans; pop tabs for the Moila Country Club/Shriner’s Hospital; flashcards and book marks have been sent to Kidsmart for distribution; coloring books have been delivered to various local agencies such as Helen Davis State School, Inter-Serv, Youth Alliance, Parents as Teachers, YWCA, Bartlett Center, and La Petite Academy. In addition, each summer offender grown gardens and thousands of pounds of garden produce is donated to 2nd Harvest Food Bank.
These projects are very vital to the community. The community receives a finished product or fresh produce or additional monies to assist their agencies. The offenders feel a need to give back to the community; whether or not the community is here locally in St. Joseph/Buchanan County, or across the state. A community to the offenders is a place you call home, where families of children and adults live, who at times need that extra helpful hand.
A positive encouragement for Restorative Justice has been the implementation of in-cell activities. General Population and Treatment offenders alike can work on their activities/projects at their own pace in their own rooms, reflecting on their past mistakes, while improving communities one project at a time. “It just feels like the right thing to do!”
Additional Restorative Justice outreach projects include: the creating of several posters to encourage participants during Special Olympic activities; winterizing/repairing/general clean up for the Boy Scouts of America at Camp Geiger; assembling of the Trail’s West buttons; and the growing of young trees for community restoration efforts. Furthermore, presentations are given to at risk probationers by the Offenders Offering Alternatives (OOA) a selected group of offenders who speak of “choices” and that making the wrong choices can land the probationers in prison; therefore, think of consequences before an action.
WRDCC continues to provide excellent public safety through secure confinement, holding offenders accountable for their behavior, and preparing the offenders to be law abiding and productive citizens. At the same time, WRDCC serves as a good neighbor to the St. Joseph community and surrounding areas.