CJ Alumnus Elevated To Warden In Missouri Prison
June 29, 2017
SHSU Media Contact: Beth Kuhles
As the newly appointed Warden of the Algoa Correctional Facility in Jefferson City, Missouri, Sam Houston State University criminal justice alumnus Kelly Morriss oversees reentry for more than 1,500 male offenders making the transition from prison to the community.
“We are geared to getting the resources they need to function out in the community,” Morriss said.
Among the programs offered at the minimum security facility are assistance in getting employment, obtaining health and mental health care, and participating in restorative justice programs. These efforts begin in the prison before offenders are released.
“I am in the business of second chances,” Morriss said. “They have broken the law, and they are paying their dues for breaking the law. They have served their time, and we hope they will be better citizens when they are released.”
Morriss began his career in the Missouri Department of Corrections after graduating from the College of Criminal Justice at Sam Houston State University in 1990.
“I was born in Missouri, but raised in Texas,” Morriss said. “I had family in Missouri. Like many new graduates, I put my feelers out, and this was the first agency to hire me. I went to Sam Houston with an eye toward law enforcement and police science. As a younger man, that’s what I wanted to do. But it appears to me I made the right choice. Corrections has been a good field for me.”
Morriss started as a corrections officer at the Western Missouri Correctional Center in Cameron, Missouri, a medium security prison, where he later became a case manager and a functional unit manager at the facility. In 1998, he was promoted to Algoa Correctional Center, where he served as Assistant Warden until 2002 then was promoted to Deputy Warden of Operations at Algoa. In 2007, he was selected as Deputy Warden of the Year by the United States Deputy Wardens’ Association for his work with offender re-entry programs and volunteer work with the Boy Scouts of America.
Morriss also served for seven years as the deputy warden for Offender Management at the Jefferson City Correctional Center, a maximum level facility also located in the state’s capital. In May, he was promoted and returned to Algoa as the new warden.
Morriss credits his education at Sam Houston State University with forming the foundation for his career. It is the only college he ever wanted to go to, and he said that the instructors were “top notch,” sharing their experience in the classroom and from the field. He said professors were willing to work with students one-on-one and to get to know them as a person.
“My mother always said, ‘Education is something that no one can ever take away from you,’” Morriss said. “Education is a valuable tool and lays the foundation for your career.”
As a deputy warden, Morriss was selected to attend the Warden Peer Interaction Program at the Correctional Management Institute of Texas at SHSU and to return to Huntsville for the class. He was able to interact with instructors and fellow correctional leaders from across the country, learning how they addresses challenges in their agencies.
“It was such an honor to go back to Sam Houston where I graduated and to interact with the instructors,” Morriss said. “It is a quality program. When you interact with other administrators from across the country, you realize that Sam Houston is known as the best criminal justice program in the country.”
Education continues to be important to Morriss, and in 2002 he earned a master’s degree in criminal justice administration from Columbia College. He also shares his expertise with other agencies after being certified as an auditor by the U.S. Department of Justice three years ago. He had worked with prisons in Louisiana and Missouri on audits of their facilities.
Morriss encourages students to look at corrections for career opportunities.
“It’s a broad field, and they are always hiring,” Morriss said. “I encourage people who don’t know what they want to do after graduation to give corrections a chance.”
Morriss and his wife, Mandie, reside in Jefferson City, Missouri, with their two sons, Kamron and Konnor.
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