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Missouri has no plans to bring air conditioning to Algoa Correctional Center

by Ryan Pivoney | August 25, 2022 at 4:05 a.m.
Algoa Correctional Center is shown in this photograph taken Friday, July 6, 2018.

Algoa Correctional Center doesn't have air conditioning, and the state has no plans to add it.

The Missouri Department of Corrections has five prisons on a capital improvements list to install air conditioning. Algoa, a minimum security prison currently housing 1,266 offenders in Jefferson City, isn't among them.

"Algoa is a very old building -- it's more than 100 years old -- so it's not really possible to air condition those buildings," said Karen Pojmann, communications director for the department. "They don't have an air-handling system, so it's very difficult to install air conditioning in those buildings."

"We'd have to totally rebuild the buildings themselves to install air conditioning," she later added.

Algoa, built in 1932, is the third-oldest prison in Missouri behind Tipton Correctional Center, completed in 1913, and Boonville Correctional Center, built in 1889.

But Boonville, the state's oldest prison, has 11 housing units that are air-conditioned and Tipton, the second oldest, has 14 housing units that are air-conditioned. Some of the department's older facilities have window air conditioning units in administrative offices as well. Pojmann said infrastructure constraints prevent the department from installing air conditioning in the other housing units and buildings at those facilities.

Algoa doesn't have air ducts or air-handling systems, she said.

Of Missouri's 18 prisons, seven are fully air conditioned and six are partially air conditioned. The five institutions that completely lack air conditioning are Algoa, Moberly Correctional Center, Western Missouri Correctional Center in Cameron, Northeast Correctional Center in Bowling Green and Ozark Correctional Center in Fordland.

Jefferson City Correctional Center, a maximum security prison built across the street from Algoa in 2004, is fully air conditioned.

Facilities without air conditioning, such as Algoa, have means to effectively circulate air, Pojmann said. They all have industrial fans, misting fans, sprinkling stations, cold drinking water and ice machines. Cold water coolers in common areas and running water in cells are intended to keep offenders hydrated.

Offenders, even those in solitary units, receive ice three times per day, Pojmann said.

She said the state bought additional ice machines and misting fans in anticipation of the heat this year. Additionally, facility administrators are instructed to buy supplemental ice when machines can't meet demand and limit outdoor work during extreme heat.

When the temperature reaches above 90 degrees, the department's medical provider, Centurion, performs additional checks on elderly and chronically ill offenders, as well as those taking certain medications.

Algoa is also using open windows to circulate air, Pojmann said.

Still, offenders at Algoa and other Missouri prisons without AC experience suffocating conditions and difficulties finding relief, the Kansas City Star reports.

As a minimum security facility, offenders at Algoa are more free to move around and walk outside as well, Pojmann said.

"There are trees that provide shade," she said. "So it's a slightly better situation than some of the other facilities, but it won't be really feasible to install air conditioning there."

Pojmann said facilities where it is more feasible to add AC are included in the department's list for capital improvements.

Cost estimates for the five facilities included in the capital improvement plan total $130 million. The department projects it will cost $55 million to fully air condition Farmington Correctional Center, $13 million at Fulton Reception and Diagnostic Center, $18 million at Missouri Eastern Correctional Center in Pacific, $26 million for Moberly and $18 million for Northeast.

"It's pretty cost-prohibitive," Pojmann said. "We haven't even really looked at the cost for the really old buildings because the infrastructure doesn't really support air conditioning installation."

Pojmann said the decision to add air conditioning to facilities isn't solely up to the Department of Corrections because funds first have to be appropriated by the state Legislature.

The department has received 40 heat complaints so far this year, but Pojmann said she was unsure if any were concentrated to any areas in particular.

Heat complaints happen every year, she said, but this summer was hotter than usual and the summer heat started earlier, which led to a doubling of complaints from last year.

Pojmann said she was unsure how many came specifically from Algoa.

She said the department is always looking to improve conditions and infrastructure at facilities, noting the ongoing effort to move offenders from Western Missouri Correctional Center to Crossroads Correctional Center, an air conditioned facility also in Cameron. The department plans to use Western Missouri Correctional Center as a staff training facility, Pojmann said.

"That would be one step toward having more universal air conditioning," she said. "And of course we have requested funding for these other five facilities for air conditioning, and it's on the list but we have to wait for the funds to be appropriated by the General Assembly. We don't really have the budget for it otherwise."

Print Headline: Missouri has no plans to bring AC to Algoa Correctional Center


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