This week began with pickets at the state prison in Newton, but the head of the correctional workers union local says it won’t be the last before 2004 ends. Mark Frymoyer is president of Local 451 of the Association of State County and Municipal Employees, the union for prison workers in Newton and Mitchelville. Frymoyer says cutting staff has affected the institutions and they can’t sustain any more cuts while the prison population continues to increase. Having too few guards on duty means moer dangerous working conditions, he says, and the flat budget for prison operation also is hard on others. He says there’s been a decrease in inmate programs and even the quantity of food the prisoners get. “Don’t get me wrong, they’re incarcerated for a reason, which is breaking a law,” but he says cuts affect the safety not only of the staff but also the public and other inmates. Frymoyer says guards don’t think the inmates they supervise should get any extra breaks, but also don’t want them to be the losers when funding is cut. He says prisoners are still human beings and they’re paying the price for what they’ve done and deserve to be treated humanely. Frymoyer says prison workers from Newton were joined by others who work at prisons in Fort Dodge and other cities in an “informational picket” earlier this week, hoping to get a message to the public. He says balancing the state budget “is something that has to be done,” but doing it on the backs of state workers is not the solution. Frymoyer says the AFSCME union members plan another information picket around the end of the year at the women’s prison in Mitchellville. Two months ago the board of corrections approved a budget with no funding incerase from last year, noting the number of prison employees is just about the same as it was four years ago though the number of inmates in the system has grown by about 1,000.
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