Union says attacks on guards are on the rise

SPRINGFIELD, Illinois - The union that represents the state's correctional officers says attacks on workers by inmates are rising.

Last month, a female guard at the East Moline Correctional Center was hit repeatedly in the head with a rock by an inmate, one of hundreds of assaults in state prisons so far this year.

"Since 2015, there has been a 49 percent increase on assaults on employees in the Department of Juvenile Justice, and a 51 percent increase in 2 years in assaults on correctional employees in the Department of Corrections. There is a growing unwillingness on the part of the DOC and the DJJ to issue and implement clear penalties for violations, even for violent assaults," said Roberta Lynch, head of AFSCME Council 31.

Several union leaders from correctional facilities around the state spoke at a news conference Thursday in Springfield. They talked about physical and sexual assaults in their facilities.

They say certain areas of the prisons need more staff, and questioned what they say is a recent shift in policy of transferring maximum security inmates to medium and minimum security prisons.

"We want a halt to what we believe are budget driven re-classifications. The message being sent is that their concern is saving money," Lynch said.

Cody Dornes, head of the AFSCME union for East Moline Correctional Center said the injured guard's radio wasn't working properly, that there are "dead spots" in the facility.

"We need radios that work," Dornes said.

He said the guard was alone on the overnight shift, overseeing two dorms of 110 male inmates.

"To make our facility safe, we need more staff. This officer shouldn't have been alone," he said.