River North prison now at full capacity

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By Patrick Smith


INDEPENDENCE — River North Correctional Center in Independence has reached its initial full capacity, after the final 25 offenders entered the prison gates March 31.
The 1,024-bed, Level 4 medium security facility has added about 50 inmates per week since it officially opened last September.
Warden Ben Wright noted in a recent email that the facility now has 319 filled staff positions, which means it is at about 94 percent of its anticipated total workforce of between 330 and 340 people.
During a meeting regarding the chaplaincy program at River North in March, Wright mentioned that the prison planned to begin community outreach programs in the near future. When asked last week what kinds of programs would be offered, Wright said they were still being planned.
“We have established a Community Relations Committee which focuses on the well-being of staff at River North Correctional Center, as well as organizing events to benefit the local community,” Wright said. “This group is in its infancy, as they have only had the opportunity to meet twice. However, they are working diligently to organize efforts to reach out to the community.”
The $105 million facility officially opened following a ribbon cutting ceremony Sept. 25, 2013.
It promised jobs for hundreds of residents of Grayson County and surrounding areas in positions ranging from corrections officers to doctors to teachers, but the opening was delayed for three years after the facility’s construction due to lack of state funding to operate it.
River North now operates on an annual budget of approximately $23 million, with a payroll of around $16 million.