Minnesota Corrections Officers Union Leader Demands More Safety Improvements in Prisons

September 26, 2018 11:43 AM

On the heels of the death of a second corrections officer in two months, Tim Henderson, the associate director of the union representing Minnesota corrections officers, said, "We have a serious problem with safety issues that still exists."

Henderson, the Associate Director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees District Council 5, said more corrections officers need to be hired by the Department of Corrections. He added the switch to what he described as a less punitive segregation policy for inmates who assault officers has contributed to an increase in attacks on corrections officers in prisons statewide.


"The segregation policy is being worked on and still needs improvements," Henderson said.  "And, it is clear there is now a retention and recruiting problem for officers and it needs to be addressed without any politics or legislative game playing."

RELATED: Gomm Family Members Issue Statement on Death of Corrections Officer at Oak Park Heights

Henderson said the death of 37-year-old corrections officer Joseph Parise, in his opinion, was connected to Parise's attempts to help another officer who was being assaulted by an inmate at Oak Park Heights Correctional Facility.

The Minnesota Department of Corrections confirmed  Parise had responded to an assault by an inmate on a different officer around noon Monday. He later returned to his post and experienced what was termed a medical emergency.

"An autopsy by the medical examiner will determine the exact cause of death," Henderson said. "But, it sure seems like there is a connection."

AFSCME union local leader Derek Magle said the mood at Oak Park Heights is somber and employees are mourning the loss of more than a co-worker with the death of Parise.

RELATED: Oak Park Heights Officer Dies after Medical Emergency; Responded Earlier to Officer Assault

"Joe was the kind of guy who, when he came to work, was always able to put a smile on everyone's faces," Magle said.  "He was a friend, brother, husband and a father."

The Department of Corrections issued a statement Tuesday and said, "DOC shares concerns over safety issues and has tried to get additional funding for 187 officers, but the Legislature has only provided enough new funding to hire 15 officers."

Stillwater Corrections Officer Joseph Gomm was killed by an inmate at the Minnesota Correctional Facility-Stillwater facility on July 18. Edward Muhammed Johnson, an inmate at MCF-Stillwater at the time, is facing two counts of first-degree murder and one count of second-degree assault in connection to the fatal assault of Gomm. 


Jay Kolls

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