DES MOINES – An Iowa union is disturbed and blames staffing shortages for prison inmates using methamphetamine and attacks by patients on mental health workers that caused injuries.
AFSCME Iowa Council 61 President Danny Homan issued the following statement regarding inmates with contraband and positive drug tests at the Iowa Medical and Classification Center in Coralville:
“Four inmates have tested positive for methamphetamine at the Iowa Medical and Classification Center and several inmates have been found in possession of tobacco and oxycodone. It is believed the inmates acquired these substances through the Visiting Room, where visitors are now only screened via x-ray machine, when it is in working order. A dire shortage of Correctional Officers means that the strip searches of inmates before and after a visit are rushed and with less scrutiny than adequate staffing would provide.
“The cause and effect here is alarming. When the Department of Corrections is underfunded, we eliminate and don’t replace security staff. When our prisons are understaffed, we end up with lax security procedures. When we shortchange security, our facilities are not safe. When our facilities are not safe, fellow inmates, staff, and the public are all in jeopardy.
“I will continue to sound the alarm on our critically low staffing levels until someone in the failed Branstad-Reynolds Administration wakes up and adequately staffs our prisons. IMCC Warden Jim McKinney can’t balance his budget on the backs of our Correctional Officers. In doing so, he is putting us all in harm’s way.”
Earlier, it was reported that three mental health workers at a state institute in Independence were injured by a patient.
Homan issued the following statement regarding recent staff injuries at the Independence Mental Health Institute:
“I was deeply concerned to hear about two separate incidents of staff being seriously injured by the same patient at the Independence Mental Health Institute over the past two weeks. The first incident resulted in two staff members being rushed to the emergency room; the second resulted in injuries simply due to the fact that insufficient staff was available to respond and assist the staff member while she was being assaulted.
“The issue of understaffing permeates too many of our state facilities. Whether prisons, mental health institutes, or resource centers, putting staff in harm’s way simply because we are continually understaffed is unacceptable.
“Appropriate placement has also been a continuing issue at our mental health institutes and resource centers. The patient who attacked multiple staff at Independence MHI was transferred from a private facility who was no longer able to handle his violent behavior. There should have been a period of consideration by the state to determine whether or not his behavior pattern could be appropriately handled at Independence MHI, given their staff shortages.
“Another ongoing concern regarding placement is the convicted rapist at Woodward Resource Center, who has been threatening another attack since his transfer to the facility in August. There is no doubt that the Woodward Resource Center is an unsafe place for a violent sexual predator to reside. For the sake of the staff, his fellow residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and the public, we have to make more responsible placement decisions.”