Keeping Missouri Prisons Accountable – Lori Curry

By Jamie Lindsey

Lori Curry is the Creator and Director of Missouri Prison Reform whose goals include keeping an open line of communication between the Missouri Department of Corrections, incarcerated individuals, and their family members. Lori says, “We tell their stories a lot of times and communicate with them about what’s going on in the Missouri State Prison facilities. I also communicate with family members and try to help them navigate this life and advocate for their loved ones who are incarcerated as well as communicate with the Missouri Department of Corrections” 

The organization’s biggest problem is that the Missouri Department of Corrections isn’t that transparent with their information, and it’s a fight for Lori to get the information she needs. “They lie to the public. That’s the truth. I do a lot on social media because they just don’t care. They will ignore family members’ concerns until it’s out there and people are paying attention. Especially the media. If the media gets a hold of something then they’ll do something about it. So I’ve worked really hard for the last year and a half forming relationships with the media and building a social media presence so people are paying attention,” she said. “Then they will act.”

The organization also actively processes sunshine law requests to get information from the DOC that they don’t want to hand over. Lori said, “I do a sunshine request once a week for all the deaths in the Department of Corrections. I started doing that to keep them honest about COVID-19 in the facilities and the number of deaths they were having. I continued to do that because there are sometimes deaths that are suspicious and by doing that I have a list of people who have died in the facilities.” 

Lori started the organization after getting together with her partner who is incarcerated. After hearing some of his stories of things that happened within the facilities, her shock and disgust was enough for her to stay motivated to help others. 

“I started having family members contact me. I always feel for those people, especially when incarceration is new to them and someone they love just got into prison. They are so worried. I get messages late at night and I try to respond right away. I tell them I know what it’s like to worry when you don’t hear from someone. They (inmates) only get one phone call a day, or if they’ve gone into the hole they don’t get to call. I’ve been there.” 

Lori said that she will get messages from family members about things that she’s never experienced. Like the death of a loved one, or the family not knowing what happened with their loved one’s death, they didn’t get to say goodbye or they feel like the prison is lying to them. “It’s really heartbreaking,” Lori said. 

Getting one message thanking her is reward enough. She just wants to help. 

But, how can the average citizen help reform prison policies in our state?? “It is an uphill battle,” Lori said. “If it were easy someone would have already done it. But I try to provide everything that I get. I try to provide prison policies to everybody so they have access to them too. We are going to do a newsletter to provide policy information to the incarcerated. I want everybody to be educated and informed.” 

Even the lawmakers and elected officials, which her organization is also trying to educate. “I don’t even know if they are aware of what’s going on in the prisons,” Lori mentioned. 

The organization’s goals moving forward include creating an advocate pen-pal program for soon-to-be released inmates, setting up a funding system for families in need and being able to provide travel expenses for those who want to see their loved ones. 

You can find Missouri Prison Reform at their website here: 

https://www.moprisonreform.org/

Or on their social media pages: 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Missouri-Prison-Reform-101144818219115

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/missouriprison/

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