VCC inmate attacks guard

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Another inmate helps until other guards arrive

By Rich Bauer, Managing Editor

The Vandalia Correctional Center is the latest state prison to experience an inmate attack on an officer.
And a union officer at VCC said that the Friday evening incident is yet another example of the risks that prison workers face due to understaffing.
Tom Shaer, spokesperson for the Illinois Department of Corrections, confirmed on Tuesday that a VCC inmate had attacked a correctional officer.
Shaer said that the incident occurred at about 8 p.m. on Friday after that officer confiscated a radio, “the owner of which could not be immediately determined from among three inmates.”
He said that an inmate “struck a correctional officer with a punch to the head, and then grabbed and held the guard.”
Shaer said that several staff members broke up the incident, and that “the officer did not suffer injuries, only red marks to his face and two other areas.
“He completed his shift, took the next day off and then began his scheduled days off on Sunday and Monday,” he said.
Shaer said that the officer acted properly in handling a situation among inmates.
“Confiscation of the radio, pending determination of ownership, is in keeping with IDOC protocol.
“The officer was preparing a report on the matter and placing the radio in a protective bag when one of the inmates demanded the radio,” Shaer said.
“When the officer refused and continued following procedure, that inmate punched him one time, (and) grabbed and held him in an aggressive manner,” he said.
The inmate was transferred to Pontiac Correctional Center, a maximum-security facility that Shaer said “is quite different from minimum-security Vandalia.”
Corrections officials, he said, will “explore” the prosecution of the inmate on aggravated battery charges.
Shaer said that one dormitory at VCC was on Level 1 lockdown.
“Thirty-six hours later, the lockdown was lifted and the entire facility resumed normal operations,” he said.
Denny O’Malley, vice president of Local 993 of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said the assault is “(another) indication of what’s going on in our facilities with what we’re facing.
“We’re short everywhere, and the inmates are getting worse and worse,” O’Malley said.
"This is not any indication at all," Shaer said. "Vandalia CC has had no incidents of guards being struck for more than three years.
"Serious assault on staff is down throughout IDOC facilities and serious assaults of all types are down 35 percent. Those statistics are from the most recent year-long reporting period ended June 30th; the system-wide downward trend continues."
O'Malley said that the officer who was attacked was on his own for a short period, a result of staffing shortages, “and it took a while to get more of our people there.
“Luckily, one of the inmates pulled him (the attacking inmate) off of him (the correctional officer).
Shaer said that the officer "was not alone due to staffing shortages. It was because these are minimum-risk inmates at a minimum-security facility that has had no incidents for more than three years. Thus, security staffing was appropriate in that 'short period.'
“It’s an ongoing issue,” O’Malley said, noting that several issues are contributing to staffing problems.
Mandates on duties other than direct security are pulling officers away from that responsibility, and because of staff shortages, many employees are working “a lot” of overtime hours.
Shaer said, "We never jeopardize security and the agreed-to mandatory security shifts are always covered.
"Overtime is voluntary and taken based on seniority.," he said.
Shaer said that IDOC and AFSCME have a written agreement on the number mandatory guard shifts for safety and security, which are always covered and cannot be understaffed.