CORALVILLE – Today, AFSCME Iowa Council 61 and AFSCME Local 2985 held an informational picket outside of the Iowa Medical and Classification Center to raise awareness of critically low corrections staffing levels in Iowa’s corrections system, including staffing levels at the Iowa Medical and Classification Center.
During the picket, AFSCME Iowa Council 61 President Danny Homan addressed the recent comments of the Governor’s spokesman, Tim Albrecht, who misleadingly tried to deflect blame on to the Governor’s predecessor and absurdly claimed that the picket would have a negative effect on security.
“In 2009, there was 583 staff at the Iowa Medical and Classification Center. In 2010, the last year of Governor Branstad’s predecessor’s term, staffing declined by 28. In 2011, Governor Branstad’s first year of his current term, staffing declined by a further 29 staff. After increasing by only 8 in 2012, this year it fell by 7 to a total 527. So staffing has fallen significantly here since Governor Branstad took office,” said Homan.
“This did not just happen, it was decision made by Governor Branstad. The state has a massive surplus and can afford to increase staffing to a safer level. In fact, the General Assembly has consistently passed funding to hire additional corrections staff across the state, yet the Governor and Director Baldwin refused to fill all of the positions,” added Homan.
Noting that the Governor is in the third year of his term, Homan said “Governor Branstad is responsible for the staffing situation today. Period.”
Regarding the baseless allegation that today’s picket would undermine security, Homan said “inmates are quite aware of staffing levels. Inmates observe staffing levels every day. Inmates don’t need to learn staffing levels from the media, all they have to do to learn staffing levels is look around.”
AFSCME Local 2985 President Marty Hathaway spoke about the strain that understaffing is having on employees at the Iowa Medical and Classification Center.
“Staff and their families are worried. They know that our prison is not even close to having the level of safety and security it should,” said Hathaway.
“We have 18 less nurses than we had in 2009. Given the Iowa Medical and Classification Center’s major role in housing inmates with physical and mental health issues, this shortage is particularly disturbing. The shortage of nursing staff has gotten so severe that it has often become nearly impossible for our nurses to get a single vacation day off to spend time with their families,” said Hathaway.
In Iowa, AFSCME Iowa Council 61 represents 40,000 public employees including law enforcement and correctional officers, firefighters, mental health workers, professional school staff, emergency responders, and many other workers. AFSCME Local 2985 represents employees at the Iowa Medical and Classification Center, which is part of the Iowa Department of Corrections.