AFSCME releases number of corrections workers needed; renews Appleton prison objection



Questions? Contact AFSCME communications coordinator Lynette Kalsnes


Correctional officers and workers represented by AFSCME Council 5 demanded Thursday that lawmakers provide funding to hire 327 corrections officers and 75 to 100 other employees to keep workers, institutions and communities safe.

AFSCME also renewed its objection to reopening the privately owned Appleton prison. Reopening a vacant prison is not the solution to creating a safer environment for correctional officers and workers. Two independent reports have found that buying and fixing the CoreCivic facility would cost nearly $200 million, not including staff costs. The state hasn’t been able to keep up with staffing needs in existing prisons; reopening Appleton would stretch our correctional staffing even thinner and make safety issues worse.

Two correctional officers already have died in Minnesota’s prisons this year and dozens more have been assaulted by inmates. Corrections Officer Joseph Gomm was killed by an inmate at the Stillwater Correctional Facility in July, and CO Joseph Parise died in late September shortly after helping to stop an inmate attack on a corrections officer at Oak Park Heights Correctional Facility.

AFSCME members have repeatedly asked legislators to fund adequate staffing. Union local leaders from each prison have worked hard to assess how much additional staffing each facility needs to ensure safety and security.

AFSCME members shared that number with the Department of Corrections Thursday. This coming legislative session, we will demand funding to hire 327 additional corrections officers and 75 to 100 other staff, including LPNs and food service, clerical and maintenance workers, based on existing inmate populations.

“Our union, AFSCME Council 5, has asked the Legislature for years for additional staff,” said Council 5 associate director Tim Henderson. “Every prison is dealing with staffing shortages that have put workers in danger. Hiring these additional workers will provide additional safety and security for our staff and the public, which is one of our most fundamental responsibilities.”

“We and the Department both recognize we need adequate staffing for security and programming to guarantee a safer and more positive work environment,” said Local 915 president Jeff Vars, a corrections officer at Oak Park Heights Correctional Facility.

AFSCME members will keep talking to legislators and candidates right up until the election, vote on Nov. 6, and then continue showing up in force at the Capitol during the legislative session.

“Even though we have a staffing number, we realize the work isn’t over,” Vars said. “We’re not going to wait until the legislative session starts. We’re going to jump on it.”

AFSCME Council 5 represents 43,000 workers across the state of Minnesota, including 2,500 corrections officers and workers.