Dixon Correctional Facility Picket

By: Rebekah Baum
By: Rebekah Baum

"I do my job, and what I'm asking the state to do, instead of gambling with our safety, have sufficient amount of staff available."

Correctional Officer Jim Farmer has been assaulted twice by inmates at Dixon's Correctional Facility. Farmer says there's a critical shortage of employees at the prison.

"I'm working an area where there's probably 100 inmates and just me," says Farmer.

The prison lost 100 employees back in 2001 with former Gov. George Ryan's early retirement incentive, employees say those jobs have never been replaced.

"We are seeing staff assaults almost daily, at least weekly. Since the hostage situation, we've had five or six staff assaults, we just had two more assaults Sunday night," says AFSCME local 817 president Lori Gaston.

"The assaults on staff from 2001-2005 have decreased by 50 percent, so when they had more staff in '01 compared to '05, staffing levels higher does not indicate less assaults," says Illinois Department of Corrections spokesman Derek Schnapp.

There's a major discrepancy in the number of inmate assaults on staff at Dixon being reported. For example, in 2003, the Illinois Department of Corrections says there were 14 assaults, but the union says according to records kept at the facility there were 130.

"The governor says everything is going just fine. I'm not sure he's hearing anything going on in the department," says Gaston.

"When there's critical vacancies, we address them," says Schnapp.

Gaston says the violence that's happened in Illinois correctional facilities in the last few months alone, including the hostage situation at Dixon in May, are warning signs she hopes that state recognizes and addresses.

There are 550 total staff members at the Dixon Correctional Facility, and 2,200 inmates.


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