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Senator Amanda Ragan says Iowa prisons need more safety for workers

Amanda Ragan
The following is a legislative update from State Senator Amanda Ragan, representing portions of Franklin, Butler and Cerro Gordo counties:

WORKPLACE SAFETY

Deadly Anamosa attacks highlight safety needs

Fifty years ago, the Occupational Safety and Health Act went into effect, promising American workers the right to safety on the job. This was a big win for hard-working Americans. It has prevented injuries and saved lives.

Still, workers are killed on the job each year, and many more suffer injury or illness because of dangerous working conditions.

The murder of two correctional workers at the Anamosa State Penitentiary last month drew much-needed attention to the dangers of inadequate workplace safety, following years of increasing violence, prison overcrowding, staff reductions, budget cuts and OSHA violations throughout Iowa’s corrections system. Anamosa, in particular, was cited for lack of reliable communication equipment or adequate staff for emergency responses.

We have been sounding the alarm for years, as budgets have failed to keep up with staffing, equipment and facility needs. This session’s proposals by the House (HF 861) and Senate (SF 599) won’t do enough to improve mounting safety concerns after years of underfunding.

A group of Iowa lawmakers met with staff and toured the Anamosa prison on April 16th to get an up-close look at the overcrowded and under-staffed maximum-security facility.

Following that visit, Democratic legislators renewed their call for fully funding Iowa prisons and making other key reforms throughout the Iowa Department of Corrections, including:

* Filling hundreds of lost and vacant positions, including nurses and corrections officers, to ensure adequate staffing

* Upgrading radios and communications equipment to improve safety

* Restoring bargaining rights

* Conducting an independent, federal investigation

* Implementing new training procedures

Workers Memorial Day

Workers Memorial Day, commemorated each year on April 28th, is a time to honor the victims of workplace injury and illness and to keep fighting for the promise of safe jobs for all.

In 2020, Iowa lost dozens of lives due to confirmed workplace incidents—and potentially many more who may have contracted COVID-19 on the job.

Our nation has faced many challenges because of the worldwide pandemic. Thanks to the sacrifice and perseverance of American workers, we are making progress.

I am committed to honoring the front-line workers who lost their lives and to strengthening health and safety protections for those showing up for work every day.

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