Contact: Troy Bauch
Serious Assaults at Stanley Point to System-wide Problems in Corrections
Recent serious assaults against staff at Stanley Correctional Institution point to growing problems at the facility, and statewide throughout the correctional system, according to the men and women who work inside correctional facilities.
The situation is deteriorating as department administrators ignore concerns about working conditions raised by front-line workers and disregard long standing methods of maintaining open communication and stability in the workplace.
Two officers at Stanley were hospitalized following an April 16 assault by an inmate. The seriousness of the attack and injuries sustained were downplayed by department administrators. Later that same week, in an additional assault, another officer was seriously injured fending off an inmate attack. This follows an assault at Racine Correctional Facility earlier in the month, and a flurry of injuries over the preceding months at other facilities.
"Correctional officers have long understood that they work in dangerous conditions. But what has changed is that they no longer have a way to speak out about their concerns without fear of reprisal from above," said Troy Bauch, an AFSCME Council 24 staff representative and former correctional officer.
When Gov. Scott Walker tore up contract language that established work rules over decades of give-and-take negotiations, one of the casualties was morale, and another was monthly labor-management meetings at each facility. In these meetings, workers could speak openly and share concerns while also understanding the perspective of their managers.
The administration is promising to begin holding "employee collaboration meetings" after eight months of silence, but those meetings will only involve employees who are hand picked by management. Employees who participate will do so with no guarantee that any criticisms they may raise will not be held against them. "These meetings will be little more than window dressing. You can't expect employees to speak openly about problems when anything they say can, and probably will, be used against them," Bauch said.
"Morale is at an all time low. Vacancies are at a record high. Mistakes are happening that can and should be corrected. But all we hear from management is 'your concerns are noted'. That's not communication. That's a blow off," Bauch said.
"The people who work in correctional facilities are professionals. They deserve to be treated with respect by their employer," Bauch said.
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