Governor’s Mansion gets panic buttons

Tuesday, March 22, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 2:08 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY — Panic buttons have been installed in the Governor’s Mansion to alleviate Gov. Matt Blunt’s concerns about the prison inmates who work in the house.

For at least 100 years, the state has used inmate labor for cleaning, cooking and maintenance at the mansion, the Department of Corrections said. Some inmates even dress in tuxedos to act as waiters and coat checkers at formal events.

To work at the mansion, inmates must be nonviolent offenders with clean prison conduct records, be within a year of release and have previously served in other work-release programs, the Corrections Department said.

Blunt asked Capitol Police to install the four panic buttons when he took office in January. Blunt and his wife, Melanie, have stayed at the mansion occasionally. But the first lady has mostly stayed in Springfield, where she gave birth to the couple’s first child, William Branch Blunt, about two weeks ago.

Blunt said his wife and son will move into the Governor’s Mansion as soon as she is ready.

“I’m concerned about my family’s security,” Blunt said when asked about the panic buttons by The Kansas City Star. “As you know, there are inmates in the mansion all the time.”

Three corrections’ officers are on duty at the mansion when the inmates are there, and the Missouri State Highway Patrol assigns troopers to the governor’s family.

Corrections officials said they were unaware of any instances of inmate workers causing problems.

The state Division of Facilities Management installed the four panic buttons, purchased from a St. Louis company, at a cost of $811.

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