The union representing most state workers is raising more concerns with staffing levels at Iowa’s prisons. AFSCME Iowa Council 61 president Danny Homan is especially upset about an incident over the weekend at the Iowa Medical and Classification Center (IMCC) in Coralville.

Homan says there were no circulators on duty at IMCC. Circulators are prison employees trained to respond to emergencies. “So, in effect, if we would have had a fight or an inmate or staff member have a heart attack, there was nobody in this institution that could’ve responded,” Homan said. “We would’ve had to pull an employee out of a cell house or somewhere else to have them to respond.”

Homan says overtime was requested to have a circulator on staff, but the request was denied. He’s placing the blame on Governor Terry Branstad and Iowa Department of Corrections Director John Baldwin.

Homan says IMCC recently gave $1.7 million in funds back to the Department of Corrections to help other institutions around the state. Just under $300,000 went to the DOC Central Office, according to Homan.

“Those are your management and secretarial folks. Although they may have an important role here, they don’t have overtime costs. So, apparently John Baldwin can’t even run the budget for his own office. He’s taking money out of the institution’s budgets and shorting us on correctional officers,” Homan said.

Staffing at IMCC has been trimmed by more than 100 positions over the last two years as part of state budget cuts. Homan says similar numbers of layoffs have occurred at other correctional facilities around the state.

Homan spoke to reporters Tuesday near a monument which recognizes law enforcement officers who’ve died in the line of duty. “We believe it is time for Governor Branstad and John Baldwin to get real and provide the money we need to safely operate these prisons before we have a correctional officer killed and we have to add another rock to this monument,” Homan said.

The Iowa Department of Corrections issued a statement in response to AFSCME’s concerns. It states the department is “grateful Governor Branstad recommended and the Legislature approved funding for 40 additional correctional officer positions” in the 2012 budget.

Here’s the full statement from the DOC:

In response to the July 5, 2011 AFSCME press conference, the Iowa Medical and Classification Center and Iowa Department of Corrections both recognize and appreciate many of the concerns expressed by AFSCME at this press conference. 

Under difficult circumstances, staff of the Iowa DOC do a remarkable job providing a wide array of public safety services to the citizens of Iowa.

Over the years, continuing reductions in staffing have impacted all correctional operations including correctional officers, community corrections residential officers, probation/parole officers, treatment/program staff, and support staff as well as those who supervise them.

The Department is grateful Governor Branstad recommended and the Legislature approved funding for 40 additional correctional officer positions in the current FY2012 budget. The Department has and will continue to present funding requests for more adequate staffing levels across our system. 

The Department will continue to work to provide safety, security, treatment and reentry services within the appropriated resources available to us.

Fred Scaletta, Department of Corrections