Letter to the editor | Ensure corrections officers’ safety

September 25, 2013 

The Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association commends the leadership shown by state Sen. Jake Corman, state Reps. Kerry Benninghoff and Mike Hanna, and Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale in demanding accountability for the safety of Department of Corrections employees.

DePasquale released an audit this month that concluded that the department has failed to monitor and review employee training. This comes less than two months after an employee at SCI-Rockview allegedly was the victim of sexual assault.

Although training and assaults are separate issues, they are linked by a common problem the department continues to ignore: proper staffing of its institutions.

In the case of Rockview, rather than having four officers in the housing unit, as management requires, only two were available. As for training, our officers aren’t receiving the training they deserve because there isn’t enough staffing available to cover for them while they are at training. To provide for the needed training sessions we either have to operate our facilities with insufficient staff levels or skip the training. The department has chosen to do the latter.

We certainly understand these are difficult economic times for everyone, including our state, but the continued pattern of refusing to provide reasonable resources to ensure the safety of employees is troubling.

The Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association has repeatedly shared its concern over staffing. Hopefully, with the leadership of Corman, Benninghoff, Hanna, DePasquale and others, this will force Corrections Secretary John Wetzel to address this issue once and for all.

As we have seen, lives are at stake.

Robert Storm, Harrisburg

The writer is vice president of the Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association.

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