KS prison guards sound the alarm about under staffing across the state

Published On: Aug 06 2014 06:46:20 AM CDT   Updated On: Jun 13 2014 07:45:17 PM CDT

Last week, there were at least three separate incidents at one prison in which officers were hurt trying to control inmates.

The union representing the state's corrections officers says at least ten officers at the Lansing prison were hurt by inmates.  The Kansas Department of Corrections says the number is actually six.  

Either way, both sides consider it a high number for such a short period of time And the union says it will only get worse because the prisons are understaffed and the guards are working a lot of overtime.

"One of the officers we represent reported seeing inmates high-fiving each other and congratulating each other on the guard attacks and that's very concerning," said Rebecca Proctor, of the Kansas Organization of State Employees.  

Proctor said members are saying the union staffing at their facilities is 10-20% lower than it should be.  That includes the prisons in El Dorado, Hutchinson and Winfield.  As a result, guards are finishing a shift and then having to start another shift immediately.

"The safety and security of our officers is paramount to our operations.  You can't have a well functioning correctional facility if you have staff who are feeling unsafe," said KDOC spokesman Jeremy Barclay.

According to Barclay some of the union's numbers are exaggerated or require more context.  He said plans are in place and schedules are staggered to ensure adequate staffing at all times.  He called the series of incidents at Lansing a "very unfortunate, untimely blip".

KDOC said the job vacancies have nothing to do with the budget.  The money is there.  The problem is finding enough qualified people who want to do that very difficult and potentially dangerous job.
Barclay also provided some numbers to give more context to the staffing shortages.

At the Lansing prison, there are 509 corrections officers and 27 open positions.

In Hutch there are 360 officers and 23 openings. And El Dorado has about 360 officers and 15 openings.