Workers are a Force in Blue at Corrections Lobby Day

Correctional Sgt. Anna Koktan, a Council 5 Executive Board member, joins a long line of men and women in blue on CPC Lobbying Day.
Correctional Sgt. Anna Koktan, a Council 5 Executive Board member, joins a long line of men and women in blue on CPC Lobbying Day.

Dozens of correctional officers Wednesday urged lawmakers to increase the number of workers in prisons to help maintain order and keep communities, workers and inmates safe.

More than 115 correctional workers took part in the annual AFSCME Council 5 CPC Lobbying Day. They visited their senators and representatives at the Capitol, asking them to:

  • Support stable and sustainable pensions that guarantee a dignified retirement.
  • Oppose private prisons and leasing the Appleton prison, and support sentencing reform.
  • Keep communities, workers and inmates safe by investing in safe staffing and eliminating chronic understaffing.
  • Support Corrections’ requests for bonding and supplemental funding to protect public safety and workers.
(Image by Eric Jacobson)
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Correctional officers made a strong show of unity in dark blue uniforms throughout the Capitol complex, including at the House Public Safety and Security Policy and Finance Committee.

CPC Lobbying Day is part of ongoing efforts by AFSCME correctional members, who have been visiting lawmakers and testifying much of this legislative session.

Tuesday, they testified before the House Public Safety Committee as it considered the Public Safety Omnibus Bill.

Members thank Rep. Debra Hilstrom for her strong support as DFL lead on the Public Safety committee. (Image by Eric Jacobson)
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“We are concerned that no additional funding is in this bill that would increase the number of security officers at our facilities,” said Jerry Firkus, a correctional officer at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Moose Lake and Council 5 Executive Board member. “For several years, we and the department have come before the Legislature asking for additional correctional officers, to no avail. As a result, staff and inmates are more likely to be put in harm’s way.”

The workers also expressed concern the lack of funding for offender health care could lead to cuts in the overall budget and to officers having to work even more overtime.

AFSCME members get updates on legislative issues before heading to the Capitol.
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“We already are experiencing the effects of not having enough staff on our work, and more cuts to the number of COs would be detrimental to staff and public safety,” said Moose Lake correctional officer Jim Barbo, president of AFSCME Local 3887.

In other legislative news, Council 5 is opposing a constitutional amendment that would permanently take money from the General Fund for transportation, rather than coming up with a plan for new revenue for long-term funding for roads, bridges and transit.

SF 3837 would shift money away from services like nursing homes, K-12 education, higher education, group homes and public safety. We all know the state must invest money to improve transportation and transit. AFSCME supports a long-term, dedicated funding source for transportation like a modest increase in the gas tax that will pay for much-needed improvements without hurting other areas of the budget.