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AFSCME leader asks legislators to investigate causes of Anamosa prison murders

DES MOINES — The president of the union representing employees in Iowa’s correctional system says violence inside the prisons has become commonplace, due to depleted staffing.

AFSCME Council 61 president Danny Homan says since a nurse and a correctional officer were murdered inside the Anamosa prison last week, there have been at least three other assaults against corrections employees. In a letter to legislative leaders, Homan said there are 234 vacant correctional officer positions in the system today – including 14 at the Anamosa prison.

Senate Democratic Leader Zach Wahls of Coralville says last week’s attack at the prison in Anamosa should prompt decisive bipartisan action in the legislature. “It was obviously a tragedy and we’re at a point now where thoughts and prayers and flying the flag at half staff are not enough,” Wahls says. “We need action.”

Last week, the Senate’s majority leader indicated Senate GOP budget plans had already included four MILLION more dollars for the Iowa Department of Corrections, so more prison guards may be hired. House Speaker Pat Grassley says House Republicans are planning something similar.  “Obviously, we had a terrible situation happen at the prison,” Grassley said. “I think you were going to see a strong number in our budget, but I think it just further strengthens our option that was the right decision that we were working off of.”

Wahls says policy reforms are needed, too, like letting prison staff collectively bargain over workplace safety issues.  “In order to truly make sure that our corrections officers and staff are able to work and do their jobs,” Wahls says, “and that they can leave home without having to worry about whether or not they’ll come home that evening.”

AFSCME’s president is calling on legislators to conduct their own investigation of the causes of last week’s attack at the Anamosa prison.

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