Gangs infiltrating Missouri prisons and staffing crisis may be adding to problems

ST. LOUIS – Corrections officers in prisons all across Missouri have been reporting problems inside the penitentiary system that are not only risking their safety but yours as well.

Last month, a federal judge sentenced Nathanial Eisenhour for running a drug ring in prison. According to the feds, Eisenhour is a member of the prison gang Southwest Honkeys, one of five prison gangs documented by the Anti-Defamation League in 2015.

The ADL’s Karen Aroesty explained how prison gangs spread to the streets.

“They’ve got people on the outside who can help them,” she said. “There’s a way they can take that criminal activity and move it out on the street and keep it going because of these alliances. That’s one of our motivations for our report in 2015 in the first place.”

The report, titled “White Supremacist Gangs: A Growing Problem in Missouri,” identified the Family Values gang as traditionally white supremacist but willing to join forces with minorities.

A Missouri corrections officer supervisor, whose identity we’re protecting, said officers are monitoring these partnerships while trying to prevent a disturbance.

“It’s coming soon. We’re watching it. We’re watching the threat groups start to work together,” he said. “They’re moving drugs together. We’re getting a huge amount of drugs in the institutions. The cellphone traffic is ridiculous. Family Values is active. The Crips and the Bloods are now working with Family Values, which doesn’t really happen that much.”

The Family Values gang has appeared in two recent internal reports obtained by the Fox Files.

On September 12 at MECC in Pacific, a corrections officer wrote that a “documented member” of “Family Values” stabbed an officer in the “head, forearm and chest.”

The Missouri Department of Corrections responded, telling Fox 2, “…fortunately, another staff member and another offender intervened quickly.”

Another attack was recorded the next day in Potosi. An officer documented a “Family Values member … ran up behind me, violently stabbing me.”

A DOC spokesperson said the officer suffered only minor injuries and was back at work the next day.

The spokesperson suggested Fox 2 News not report on this topic. She gave this warning about the gangs: “Public attention given to security threat groups encourages that type of activity and places our staff at risk.”

Missouri Corrections Officers Association Executive Director Gary Gross said he disagrees with that assessment.

“It’s not being honest because these things do occur and it’s part of the job that you might be subjected to that,” he said. “The gang activity is the ultimate problem.”

Gross said the widening reach of gangs can be partly blamed on a staffing crisis within the corrections department.

“The department’s own numbers show they’re 800 some officers down,” he said. “Anytime you have staff shortages today like we have in the Department of Corrections, it makes all the inmates’ activities easier.”

Gross said staffing was partly to blame for a 100-day lockdown at Crossroads prison. It happened after a riot not specifically linked to gangs, but Gross said it illustrated the possibility of inmates taking over.

“There are some gangs that are that large within the department that they certainly would be a threat to take over the prisons and with the understaffing you’ve got, it just makes that easier to do if you decide to,” Gross said.

The union said recruitment will improve with pay raises. Not only are Missouri Corrections Officers among the lowest paid in the nation, but a jury recently awarded them a $113.7 million judgment after the officers found they’d been shorted in pay. The state is now arguing to a judge that the jury’s ruling should be disregarded and that Missouri owes nothing.