Fri June 15, 2012
Wisconsin state senator pushes Corrections to keep prison guards safer
A Democratic state senator is calling on the Department of Corrections to do a better job of keeping prison guards safe on the job.
Senator Jessica King of Oshkosh sent a letter to Department of Corrections Secretary Gary Hamblin this week outlining five areas of tension between correctional officers and their supervisors, all of which she says puts guards at risk for assaults by inmates. She says the guards who work in the prisons in her district have told her the lack of communication and strict new work rules all began after their unions lost bargaining rights. "From my understanding since the passage of Act 10 very few institutions have had meaningful monthly communications between employees and supervisors where all employees feel that there's meaningful conversation about their safety, the security of the institutions, the security of their individual posts," she says.
King says new work rules have virtually eliminated the time between shifts guards used to use to pass on concerns about potential problems in a particular cell block. She says that's contributed to a significant rise inmate assaults over the last 17 months. King says prison staff have also told her that disciplinary tickets issued to inmates that used to result in segregation time are now being treated much more leniently. She says these changes are a threat to both staff and inmates. "If condition and ticket reports of misconduct aren't taken seriously and they're aren't repercussions for them the institution as a whole doesn't function as a safe environment and that can be dangerous for inmates too," she says.
There's been no response yet from Secretary Hamblin to King's letter. But a DOC spokeswoman says security issues at the prisons are complex and Hamblin will address King’s concerns in the near future.