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Labor leader not sure Iowa prisons are safe

Statement on inmate attack on a Correctional Officer at Newton Correctional Facility –

DES MOINES – AFSCME Iowa Council 61 President Danny Homan issued the following statement regarding an inmate attack on a Correctional Officer at Newton Correctional Facility that occurred today:

“Today, a correctional officer was repeatedly punched in the face by an inmate at the Newton Correctional Facility. The officer was taken to off grounds to seek medical attention. The inmate was stopped with pepper spray and then segregated from the general population. Our thoughts are with the officer and we wish the officer a speedy and full recovery.

“Newton Correctional Facility is dangerously understaffed. Newton Correctional Facility was designed to hold 1,014 inmates. Today, it holds 1,290 inmates (27% over design capacity). There were 33 Correctional Officers, 5 Senior Correctional Officers, and 3 Trip Officers (who are off grounds) on duty today. On grounds, that is a ratio of 33.9 inmates per correctional officer. And that was on a day with slightly higher staffing levels than normal.

“On the unit where the officer was attacked, there were four officers on duty but one officer was off the unit handling another task. Lately, staffing on this unit is typically three officers. In the past, this unit was run with six officers.

“Director John Baldwin’s attempt to run corrections on the cheap is imperiling the safety of inmates, staff, and the community. While his ‘hear no evil, see no evil’ policy will likely result in a statement from him that everything is fine, such statements are dishonest. The staff who work in our prisons know staffing levels are dangerously low. Inmates know from observation that staffing levels are dangerously low. Director Baldwin’s policies are a disaster waiting to happen.”

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