AFSCME Iowa Council 61 - Every Day. Everywhere. Making Iowa Better.

Budget Cuts Prompt Safety Compromise at Iowa Medical & Classification Center

DES MOINES – AFSCME Iowa Council 61 President Danny Homan issued the following statement regarding safety compromises at the Iowa Medical & Classification Center in Coralville:

“A precarious change in protocol has been made at IMCC that puts the safety of Correctional Officers in jeopardy. This week, the management of IMCC decided that an appropriate cost saving measure would be to shut down control centers for individual classification units – a system that has been effective since its inception. One control center has already been shut down, with plans to eliminate all unit control centers in the near future. Rather than having unit activity, such as the locking and unlocking of cells, controlled from one of these centers, officers will now be carrying unit keys on their uniform. This makes them a clear target for inmate violence, given that they are almost always alone and now have no one monitoring their whereabouts. An officer could be assaulted with an inmate in possession of their keys and radio and no one would have any idea.

The control centers that will soon be closed monitor the following: mental health units with unpredictable inmates; reception units, where inmates have not yet been evaluated by health services or a counselor and are often detoxing; and units with inmates who are especially aggressive towards authority figures. The staff in the master control center has already been cut from three to two Correctional Officers, which is far too few to monitor an entire facility.

The justification of this safety overhaul is a $600,000 budget deficit, according to Warden Jim McKinney. IMCC is paying upwards of $60,000 a week in overtime because they are understaffed by at least 38 Correctional Officers. If they were adequately staffed, overtime pay wouldn’t be an issue. Governor Branstad should allow the Department of Corrections to put forth a budget with the ability to keep our Correctional Officers and inmates safe and House Majority Leader Chris Hagenow should be leading this charge. These drastic security changes directly threaten the safety of both staff and inmates, and I would hope that our Governor and House Majority Leader would join me in finding this completely unacceptable.

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