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Bonne Terre's prison has grown
ERDCC Warden Steve Larkins speaks to a crowded room full of staff and community leaders during a celebration for the prison's five-year anniversary. - Teresa Ressel

BONNE TERRE — Five years ago, the Eastern Reception Diagnostic and Correctional Center (ERDCC) opened its doors.

On Wednesday afternoon, the prison invited community leaders to celebrate the anniversary with Department of Corrections staff, Director Larry Crawford and Division of Adult Institutions Director Tom Clements.

Crawford acknowledged the institution had a little trouble getting open.

Funds were approved by the Missouri General Assembly during the 1996 legislation but construction and opening of the prison was held up by lawsuits and funding issues. It did not open until Feb. 10, 2003.

Crawford praised the institution and its staff. Warden Steve Larkins said this prison has the second lowest voluntary turnover rate among custody staff in the Department of Corrections.

“I’m very proud of our ERDCC staff and their dedication to public safety,” Crawford said. “This is the largest prison in the state, and it also serves as a transportation hub for the Department’s eastern region. We’re committed to Bonne Terre, and we appreciate the support we’ve received from the community.”

Crawford said he couldn’t be more pleased that Larkins was named the new superintendent last year.

City Manager Larry Barton congratulated the prison for being in Bonne Terre five years and said he hopes the prison will be around for a 50th anniversary. He said the prison has had quite an economic impact on the community. He added the city has benefited from the prison’s work program.

The prison is a maximum-security institution located on 213 acres. ERDCC also serves as the point of admission for male offenders committed by the courts in eastern Missouri to the Department of Corrections. The prison has 2,645 offenders.

The prison is one of the largest employers in St. Francois County with an annual payroll of $21.4 million. The $168 million facility now has 753 full-time employees and more than 100 contract employees who work in medical and substance abuse. It opened with about 660 employees and a $14 million payroll.

Since opening, five executions have been carried out at the Bonne Terre facility. The last was in October 2005. Attorney General Jay Nixon has asked the Supreme Court to set execution dates for 10 of Missouri’s 46 capital punishment inmates but those dates have not been set.

More about the prison

In May of 1995, then-Gov. Mel Carnahan announced that a new prison would be built in Bonne Terre and he attended the ground-breaking ceremony two years later.

The construction contract was awarded to McCarthy Construction and the rejected bidder filed a lawsuit months later. In 1998, opponents of the prison filed a lawsuit challenging its location.

Construction of the prison finally began in June 1999 and wrapped up in September 2001. However, the prison did not open up right away because the state did not have the funds.

The prison’s perimeter encompasses 76 acres and has 19 buildings, including four reception and diagnostic housing units, a minimum-security unit and six general population housing units. It also includes a building housing a library, gymnasium, chapel, education and general population medical unit, an industry building and a building which houses reception and diagnostic intake, food service, records, psychology and custody supervisory offices.

The administration building houses all administrative offices, the main control center entry and the armory. Two buildings outside the perimeter include the cook-chill operation, which prepares about 30,000 meals daily, as well as maintenance, the power plant, warehouse and the institutional mailroom.

Teresa Ressel is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-431-2010, ext. 179 or at

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