Gov. Eric Greitens spent some time Monday inside the Jefferson City Correctional Center — visiting with Corrections officers and helping serve lunch to inmates.
"The governor is participating in a program put on by the Council of Governors, called the 'Face to Face Initiative,'" spokesman Parker Briden told the News Tribune.
"This is all about making sure that the governor gets out on the front lines and interacts with the Corrections officers — the people who are, really, making a difference in our corrections system."
The governor visited with about 10 officers, Briden said, "who were able to get away and just offer their feedback on what's going on in our corrections system. They had a really, really positive dialog about what could be done to address some of the issues within our corrections system."
Greitens has promised to refocus the department's work, after a series of lawsuits and news stories focused on allegations of harassment, inappropriate sexual actions and comments, and on retaliation among officers at several Missouri prisons.
Greitens and the corrections officers also highlighted some of the good things going on, Briden said.
"They're doing really incredible work on the front lines every day, and it's a really tough environment to work in," he said. "So they wanted to highlight some of the positive things that they do and some of the positive work that they're doing to keep people protected, and to make sure we have a system that, when someone leaves prison, that they're not going to re-enter in a few weeks."
In his first seven months in office, Greitens has done a number of things with various state employees, including running with soldiers and exercising with Highway Patrol troopers.
Working and visiting with corrections officers is close to the governor's heart, Briden said.
"He wants to make sure that the people who are doing a really important public safety function — but can often get forgotten in our corrections system — know that they have his support, and know that they've got a governor who's got their back," Briden said.
After their conversations and in addition to helping serve food, Greitens joined officers "in a room check, looking for contraband — they didn't find anything, but he was able to see what that process was like."
And the governor participated in a cell check, "where they go down the line and make sure everybody's where they're supposed to be," Briden explained. "It was a pretty harrowing experience, hearing inmates yelling constantly."
The event was closed to the media for security reasons, Briden said.
Briden also noted the governor already has visited other prisons, and plans more visits in the future.