STILLWATER, Minn. (AP) — A former Minnesota corrections officer, who resigned following a colleague's death, says he's concerned that the state Department of Corrections is putting profit from its prison industry program above corrections officers' safety.
Joe Miller is one of three officers who quit after Joseph Gomm was killed last week at the Minnesota Correctional Facility-Stillwater, Minnesota Public Radio News reported. Gomm was allegedly killed by an inmate in a MINNCOR Industries building, where inmates make products for public agencies and private companies.
Gomm is the first Minnesota corrections officer to die on duty, the department said.
The MINNCOR program generates less than 1 percent of the agency's budget, the department said. The funds are used for education and re-entry programs, along with maintenance projects and security equipment, the department said.
The prison has had about 20 staff for the 300 inmates spread out in buildings that have numerous blind spots, Miller said. He said he's voicing his concerns to honor Gomm and that he hopes changes in the department can prevent another loss.
"If I can say something that helps, I will," Miller said. "But I'm done."
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees has also expressed concerns about insufficient staffing in Minnesota correctional facilities. The union said it has lobbied the Legislature for increased staffing and funding to no avail.
State Corrections Commissioner Tom Roy said he and other leaders of the department have for years tried to secure funding from the Legislature for more corrections officers.
"The notion that we don't care is something that we push back pretty hard on," Roy said. "All of our executive staff have significant correctional experience themselves, (and) everything we do relates to the safety of those officers, including our security procedures and our training."
Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, http://www.mprnews.org