July 28, 2018 09:10 AM
The Department of Corrections Commissioner Tom Roy addressed safety concerns and talked about next steps Friday morning, just one day after fallen officer Joseph Gomm was laid to rest.
Gomm died after an inmate attacked him last Thursday while he was on duty in Stillwater Prison.
Roy spoke with media for nearly an hour Friday, answering questions about safety and staffing concerns. He repeated that his department has continued to ask the Legislature for more funding and support in the past few years.
Minnesota's state budget allocations for the Department of Corrections have increased steadily in recent years, going from $999 million in 2014-2015 to $1.2 billion in the most recent budget approved by lawmakers.
Roy said he talked with Gov. Mark Dayton in the last week about the department's concerns and reviewed the safety measures that have been implement in the last seven-and-a-half years.
The governor and the Department of Corrections said it requested funds to hire 187 additional officers in the last seven years.
The legislature has only approved 15.
Senate Republicans pushed back to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, saying that the department’s budget has increased in recent years and suggested the department's spending be examined.
Roy also added that his administration will continue to support trade and vocational opportunities. It will reassess its Stillwater program though.
Edward Muhammad Johnson, the inmate accused of brutally attacking Gomm, was working in a vocational shop that allowed access to tools.
Roy said one of the areas staffing will be reviewed is the area where Gomm was patrolling.
Roy didn't say what changes might be made to the program, which gives prisoners access to tools that may be used as weapons.
However, he also emphasized a need to continue to research in order to evaluate and inform decisions.
"If we don't make decision based on information, it's not good government. Good government at this time, I believe, is supporting our staffing requests," Roy said.
Roy said as the department works on its new budget, it will make those requests again.
When asked about staffing levels, he said, "One-on-one with offenders in not uncommon. It's how business is done."
He gave examples of how inmates might meet with a teacher or walk through a hallway with one inmate. But, he affirmed his administration will continue to evaluate and listen to staff concerned.
KSTP learned three DOC officers resigned last Friday, just days after Gomm was killed.
RELATED: DOC Confirms 3 Corrections Officers Have Resigned at 2 Prisons Since Deadly Attack by Inmate
KSTP Reporter Josh Rosenthal was at the press conference and will have more on Ch. 5 starting at 4:30 p.m.
The union representing Gomm released the following statement:
We and our 2,000 correctional brothers and sisters from across Minnesota have spent the past week and a half mourning the loss of our fallen brother, correctional officer Joseph Gomm. We send our condolences to his mother, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, and friends. We will hold Joe and his wicked sense of humor, his great sense of integrity and his commitment to our mission close in our hearts.
We want to thank all of the correctional workers, other law enforcement officers and the communities who helped us through this past week. We greatly appreciate the outpouring of love and support for Joe and our correctional family.
We will not let Joseph Gomm die in vain. We want to ensure that every person who works in corrections can come home safely, and that we can keep our institutions and communities safe.
Although the Department of Corrections has communicated during this time of mourning, they have not communicated with us about the safety measures presented today nor given us an opportunity to work with them to find solutions.
We have several policy issues that we will be demanding get resolved. We have dangerously low numbers of correctional officers, levels that are far worse than the statistics reported by DOC today. This is unacceptable.
Officers are not given all the equipment they need to safely do their jobs, and that also must be addressed.
After years of asking legislators for enough funding to do our jobs safely, we are demanding bipartisan support, communication and collaboration from the Department and all levels of state government to provide us with the adequate level of correctional officers, tools, resources and policies we need to do our job and to keep our institutions and the public safe.
Updated: July 28, 2018 09:10 AM
Created: July 27, 2018 10:31 AM
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