Minnesota Prison Union Calls for Changes after Officer Death

August 02, 2018 04:39 PM

The union representing Minnesota corrections employees is demanding workplace changes after a corrections officer's death last month.

Joseph Gomm died of blunt force injuries after an inmate allegedly attacked him at the state's prison in Stillwater. AFSCME Council 5 called for staffing changes during a press conference Wednesday afternoon.


Authorities say 42-year-old inmate Edward Muhammad Johnson is suspected of attacking Gomm, who was 45, with a weapon. Johnson has been serving time on a nearly 29-year murder sentence from 2002. Prosecutors have not yet charged him.

RELATED: DOC Commissioner Plans to Request More Funding from Legislature Again

The union has previously said that prisons are understaffed and officers are unequipped for the job.

"The crisis the Department of Corrections is in today has to be acknowledged and the responsibility taken by both department leadership and legislators," John Hillyard, the union president, said. 

Hillyard added, "We want to say loud and clear, we need more funding so we can have a safe staffing level." 

RELATED: Dayton, DOC Commissioner Meet, Discuss Stillwater Prison Attack Aftermath

The union called for more funding for additional correctional officers and staff a bill that addresses the need for staffing at all DOC facilities.

"Staffing shortages are a big problem statewide," Hillyard said. "It is our number one issue." 

The union is disputing the DOC's numbers put out a press conference on Friday. Commissioner Tom Roy told reporters that the Stillwater Corrections Facitliy has a 4.8 to 1 staffing ratio.

"In our opinion those numbers are way wrong. It is not a 5 to 1 ratio, it's more like a 50 or 100 to one," said Officer Jim Barbo, member of the union.

In a statement, DOC Spokesperson Sarah Fitzgerald wrote that the department "greatly appreciates AFSCME's desire to work together on these important issues."

"We agree we are in need of many more corrections officers in our facilities statewide. Our staffing analysis indicates we need at least 150 more officers, and over the years we have repeatedly asked the Legislature for these funds... We look forward to partnering with the union, Department staff, and the legislature to improve the safety of our staff, our facilities and all Minnesotans."

KSTP staff added to this report.


Associated Press

Copyright 2018 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company


Twins open season July 24 at White Sox, feature 7 home games vs. Indians

New rules: Foreign pupils must leave US if classes go online

DPS, Valerie Castile announce traffic stop guideline updates to state's driver's manual

'Pop-up' legal clinic helps businesses damaged after riots, looting

Small business aid went beyond hard-hit companies, data show