ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Minnesota prison guards are demanding major changes in their work conditions following the murder of corrections officer Joe Gomm.
Inmate Edward Johnson is accused of beating Gomm to death last month.
A retired guard told WCCO last week that Gomm was in charge of nearly 40 inmates in a prison workshop when they blocked the doors as Edwards attacked Gomm with hammer.
Two dozen corrections officers held a news conference at the State Office Building on Tuesday. Their overwhelming demand: Hire more corrections officers immediately.
“We are asking for more staffing, enough staffing to do our job,” Sgt John Hillyard of the Corrections Officers Union said.
Hillyard said the union says Minnesota’s prisons are dangerously understaffed.
“We have been running short on for a long time. I have been on the record for a long time that we need staffing,” Hillyard said.
In 2011, WCCO interviewed Hillyard, who predicted an officer would be seriously injured.
“We keep getting more and more inmates to Stillwater and not enough corrections officers. Someone is going to get hurt or killed,” Hillyard said in 2011.
Last week, WCCO spoke to Corrections Sgt. Joe Miller, who quit after Officer Gomm’s death. He left behind a $60,000 a year salary and benefits without a plan B.
“I had to quit for my own sanity,” Miller said.
The corrections officers have a list of three demands: More staff, changes to prison disciplinary policies and more surveillance cameras. The area where Officer Gomm was murdered did not have surveillance cameras.
“Equipment is very simple. Cameras, cameras and more cameras,” Hillyard said.
The union believes had these measures, which they have asked for for years, been in place, Officer Gomm would still be with them.
Hillyard said, “We believe if we had been staffed correctly, we could have prevented it,” Hillyard said. ”In Joe’s name, we are going to make sure we are going to get something done and this is all for Joe now.”
On Wednesday, officers met with State Representative Debra Hilstrom, who is a candidate for Attorney General. Hilstrom said the officers have legitimate concerns and she is hoping the Governor and the Department of Corrections will immediately shift available funds to address their demands.