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Union: Dangerously low staff levels at Iowa correctional facility

This news story was published on May 31, 2016.
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Danny Homan

Danny Homan

DES MOINES – AFSCME Iowa Council 61 President Danny Homan issued the following statement regarding the funding and staffing of the Clarinda Correctional Facility:

“In response to the closing of the Mount Pleasant and Clarinda Mental Health Institutes, the Iowa General Assembly passed $1.9 million in shared service funding for Clarinda Correctional Facility and Mt. Pleasant Correctional Facility. These funds were intended to replace costs these correctional facilities formerly shared with the now closed mental health institutes. We have learned that Clarinda Correctional Facility will now only receive $200,000 of these shared service funds. We believe that shared service funds are being allocated for uses other than assisting the two institutions in replacing formerly shared services.

“As a result, staffing at the Lodge (a three story dorm-style facility at Clarinda Correctional Facility) was reduced from three officers or Sergeants per shift to two on May 23, 2016.

“This change endangers inmates, staff and the public. In addition to conducting rounds at the Lodge, officers assigned to it need to leave the building to escort work crews, escort inmates to the chow hall, and escort inmates to medical appointments and to visitation. When this occurs, there is only one officer left in the building to supervise 150 inmates.

“Furthermore, staff currently have little faith in the inmate classification system. The Branstad-Reynolds Administration appears to have a desire to push inmates through the system as quickly as possible, whether they are ready or not. Officers are told not to write major repots and are not backed up when inmates yell and threaten staff. As a result, many inmates who are not ready to be in the Lodge are being housed there.

“In August 2013, an inmate escaped from the Lodge, shot a Taylor County Sheriff’s Deputy, and took a Missouri couple hostage before he was shot and killed by one of the hostages. Misclassification of inmates and this new decision to reduce staffing at the Lodge is irresponsible and compromises public safety.”

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