MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Safety inside Minnesota prisons is once again in question after a corrections officer lost his life after responding to an attack.

Joe Parise, 37, had a medical emergency after trying to help another officer who was assaulted by an inmate Monday at Oak Park Heights Correctional Facility. Parise later died.

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Members of the union that represents corrections officers say Tuesday that the department has a recruitment and retention problem. They also want more staffing to keep workers safe.

“We are mourning the loss of our correctional brother, Joe Parise,” said Tim Henderson, AFSCME Council 5 associate director.

The fellow corrections officer Parise was trying to help was attacked at about noon Monday in one of the housing units inside the complex.

“The inmate punched the correction officer in the face approximately 15 times,” Henderson said. “Joe ran across the entire prison complex when he got the call for help.”

Joseph Parise (credit: CBS)

Parise helped restrain the inmate. The officer who was attacked and another staff member were hurt, taken to the hospital, treated and released.

“Joe then helped move the inmate to segregation. He said he wasn’t feeling well, returned to his unit where he was working right after the attack, and collapsed,” Henderson said.

Parise died at Regions Hospital in St. Paul. There is no word on what caused his death.

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“What we do know is that Joe died at work, on duty, helping a fellow officer and keeping everyone safe, like heroes do,” Henderson said.

Officers of AFSCME Local 915 believe the lack of safety and security for corrections officers has everything to do with staffing issues.

“I can confidently say there is a correctional officer shortage in every one of our facilities,” Henderson said. “We’re not at 100-percent compliment.”

Henderson says lawmakers need to shake funds loose to fix this problem.

“Every legislative session, AFSCME — along with working with the department — has put a staffing requests for correctional officers and some others addition classification, only to be denied,” he said.

They hope to present a robust staffing bill to lawmakers this legislative session in hopes of adding more bodies to protect staff and communities from harm.

Parise leaves behind his two children and a wife, who is expecting another child. A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the family.

Fellow corrections officers got together to design a T-shirt to honor Parise. It is the same group of people who made T-shirts for Officer Joseph Gomm, who died after an attack at the Stillwater prison.

“I don’t think we believed the response was going to be that great, and it was much bigger than we thought,” said Oak Park Heights Corrections Officer Angela Wilson. “Joe Parise was an amazing officer, an amazing friend, a husband and a father, and he’s got a new baby on the way.”

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All proceeds for the T-shirts go to the Parise family.

Reg Chapman