MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A trade union representing more than 2,000 Minnesota prison officers says the state needs to hire hundreds of more guards and up to 100 other employees to make Minnesota prisons safe.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) is demanding that Minnesota lawmakers provide funding for 327 corrections officers and 75 to 100 other employees to work in state prisons.

“Our union, AFSCME Council 5, has asked the Legislature for years for additional staff,” said Tim Henderson, the associate director of Council 5. “Every prison is dealing with staffing shortages that have put workers in danger. Hiring these additional workers will provide additional safety and security for our staff and the public, which is one of our most fundamental responsibilities.”

The call for more prison officers comes after two corrections officers died in Minnesota in the past few months.

In July, Joseph Gomm was fatally attacked by an inmate at the Stillwater prison. Last month, Joseph Parise died of a medical emergency just after responding to a prisoner’s attack on an officer at the Oak Park Heights prison.

The union, which represents 43,000 Minnesota workers, including 2,500 corrections officers, says it will pressure candidates campaigning ahead of the November election on the need to hire more prison workers.

The group also says that re-opening the privately-owned Appleton prison won’t solve the safety problem facing state prison workers.

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