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IDOC: 34 percent spike in prisoner assaults

According to the Illinois Department of Corrections, the rate of prisoners assaulting prison staff increased by 34 percent in the past two years.

According to the Illinois Department of Corrections, the rate of prisoners assaulting prison staff increased by 34 percent in the past two years.

At a press conference Thursday, Cody Dornes, a correctional officer from a facility in East Moline, said his prison is understaffed and lacking needed technology.

Dornes spoke about how a guard was assaulted overnight at the facility.

He said the guard was in charge of looking after 100 inmates by herself.

He said during her shift, an inmate came up behind her and started beating her over the head with a rock.

“The officer pushed the ‘man-down’ button, but the call wasn’t exactly heard,” Dornes said. “The only lieutenant on shift that night heard on usual radio traffic and took off to check it out. Luckily he was in the same building. He found her bleeding out on the floor. She needed six staples in her head and she is still off work recovering from her injuries.”

East Moline is a minimum-security facility.

The correctional officer said the prisoner classification system with changed in July.

Dornes said under the former guidelines, the prisoner who assaulted that guard would not have been placed in a minimum-security prison.

According to the IDOC, the department purchased digital transmission radio systems for facilities that experienced transmission issues when able. They said East Moline Correctional Center will receive a digital system when funds are available.

John Baldwin, the director of the Illinois Department of Corrections, said the state’s prisoner classification system has not been updated in 30 years.

He said they’re working right now to update that system.

Currently, IDOC reviews prisoner classifications on an annual basis, sometimes making changes to what level facility the offender is housed in.

“Our current system puts a lot of people in max who should be in medium,” Baldwin said. “We have a bunch of people in medium who act like max and should be in max. We have a lot of our population in the wrong place.”

Right now, the IDOC is in the process of completely restructuring this system.

This has some prison guards concerned.

“Right now, staff have absolutely no input into the decisions with regard to reclassification,” said Roberta Lynch, executive director of AFSCME Council 31. “

Prison staff is also asking for updated technology; mainly, more reliable technology.

"Yes, this is a dangerous job and we're asking people to take it on,” said Roberta Lynch. “And if we ask them to take it on, we, as a society, then we should do everything possible to protect their health and safety, and that's the number one thing that we're calling for today."

Baldwin agrees there should be updated technology, but said the department hasn't received the funding from the state to pay for the updates.

"We have asked for that every year that I've been here and so far, we have not gotten a dime," Baldwin said.

Baldwin said over the past three years, IDOC has trained their correctional officers on how to work with mentally ill inmates.

The director said in the past two years, 71 percent of the assaults in Illinois prisons were perpetrated by people with a mental illness.

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