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Union Says Staff is Critically Low in Iowa’s Correctional System

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DES MOINES, Iowa — Union members and prison workers say they don’t feel safe at their workplace. AFSCME union members say staffing’s critically low in Iowa’s correctional system.

Members protested Wednesday outside the Iowa Department of Corrections central office in Des Moines.

Calls for more staffing comes after three men recently escaped Newton’s Correctional Release Center. Last month, an inmate attacked and injured four staffers at the Mitchellville women’s prison.

Since then, union representatives say the Mitchellville prison will now require some officers to carry pepper spray. While they say this is an improvement, there still needs to be more workers in order for the job to be done safely and correctly.

Marty Hathaway works in master control at the Oakdale prison.

“We had three officers in master (control). We have 852 cameras to watch in all areas of that prison. We have now two officers to watch all those cameras,” he said.

Meanwhile, Gov. Terry Branstad’s office says the guard-to-inmate ratio has remained almost unchanged from the time Branstad took office in 2011. And in that time, the DOC’s budget has increased by more than $23 million.