Tired of deep funding cuts at Minnesota prisons, union correctional officers allege a “dangerous staffing crisis” that could lead to more trouble as inmates test authority, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. Concerns over adequate staffing at the state’s Stillwater prison haven’t been resolved since a violent May 15 disturbance involving about 70 inmates, said Jennifer Munt of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 5, which represents 1,900 corrections officers at the eight state prisons.
“We figure it’s just a matter of time before someone gets hurt,” Munt said. “The staffing shortage has created danger and puts both the staff and the public at risk.” The Stillwater prison hasn’t added “a single correctional officer” in the past several years, while the prison’s population has grown by 400 inmates, the union said. To guard 1,610 inmates, the prison has 61 officers on the day shift, 59 in the evening and only 21 overnight. Shari Burt of the Department of Corrections responded that the equivalent of 15 corrections officers were added at Stillwater since July 1, 2003. Munt said Gov. Tim Pawlenty forced cuts of an estimated $68 million to the DOC budget in the eight years since he took office. The cuts left a shortage of corrections officers at state prisons and also hurt some programs intended to reduce idleness and restlessness among inmates, she said.