JEFFERSON CITY • Gov.-elect Eric Greitens has picked Anne Precythe, a corrections official from North Carolina, to oversee Missouri’s state prison system.
Precythe, a former parole officer, currently serves as the Director of Community Corrections in North Carolina’s Department of Public Safety. She was the first woman to serve in that position, where she is responsible for supervising more than 100,000 offenders on probation or post-release supervision.
Precythe will be the second woman at the helm of Missouri’s prisons, after Dora Schriro, who served as director from 1993 to 2001.
Greitens’ announcement comes in the wake of reports that have brought to light a culture of harassment and retaliation among workers in Missouri’s Department of Corrections.
An investigation by Pitch.com, an alternative weekly newspaper in Kansas City, found that the state has paid millions in settlements to employees alleging they faced harassment at work for their sex, religion, race or disability.
It’s a revelation that has led to an audit into the state’s legal expense fund and investigations by the Legislature.
It also motivated Greitens, who will become the state’s chief executive on Jan. 9, to name a replacement for George Lombardi, Missouri’s embattled prison chief. Lombardi will step down when Gov. Jay Nixon’s term ends, and has already sent a letter of resignation to department employees.
In a statement on Wednesday, Greitens praised Precythe for making North Carolina’s corrections department leaner and more efficient, and for her creation of a program to support employees affected by violence at work or home.
“Anne is tough on crime and a fierce advocate for the employees and officers who will keep our streets safe,” Greitens said. “She delivered results in North Carolina. In her state, people released from prison are less likely to commit crimes again. The system is wasting less money. Employees feel heard and appreciated.”
Precythe could not immediately be reached for comment. Calls to Precythe’s office were directed back to Greitens’ transition team.
In North Carolina, Precythe has pushed initiatives intended to reduce recidivism and help former prisoners lead successful lives.
And in an interview with a podcast through the University of North Carolina’s School of Government earlier this year, Precythe said she enjoyed being able to reinforce the good things corrections officers do as part of her job as director.
“They are doing yeoman’s work, they’re doing excellent work every single day. And they don’t get credit for the good work that they do, and they do so much more of that than the things that really make the papers,” Precythe said.
“But they know, I hope they know, that I’ve got their back, and I’m going to stand up and we’re going to work through whatever comes up. That’s what we have to do,” she added. “We’re dealing with human nature, and it’s not always predictable.”
Greitens’ statement also addressed the recently exposed problems within Missouri’s prisons that Precythe will be tasked with addressing in the new year.
“Missouri’s Department of Corrections is broken and that puts public safety at risk,” he said. “Our corrections officers struggle in a culture of harassment and neglect, in a department with low morale and shockingly high turnover.”