Council 4 Corrections members stand strong in wave of staff assaults, call for legislative action

This past summer, Council 4 members working in our state’s correctional facilities endured a series of weekly consecutive staff assaults by inmates that left multiple members critically injured. This wave is a symptom of a worsening trend in staff assaults, which in Connecticut have almost doubled since the pandemic. This trend coincides with recent policy changes that have limited certain tools and mechanisms at the disposal of correctional staff to ensure the safety of each other and inmates who choose violence against other inmates.

In response, Council 4 Presidents and member leaders of AFSCME Locals 387, 1565, and 391 have been working together to call on legislators to immediately address the surge in assaults. This response culminated in a September 25 press conference ahead of the special session of the Connecticut General Assembly, where Corrections leaders repeated their calls for immediate action to workplace safety concerns, specifically asking for more staff posts in their facilities to maintain safety and security. 

Click here to watch footage of the press conference. 

Council 4 Corrections members (L-R): Patrick McGoldrick, Local 1565 Chief Steward; Mike Vargo, Local 1565 President; Robert Beamon, Local 391 Vice President; Collin Provost, Local 391 President; Aimmee Reyes-Greaves, Local 391 Executive Board member.

Council 4 Corrections members (clockwise from bottom left): Patrick McGoldrick, Local 1565 Chief Steward; Mike Vargo, Local 1565 President; Robert Beamon, Local 391 Vice President; Collin Provost, Local 391 President; Aimmee Reyes-Greaves, Local 391 Treasurer.

“As correctional officers, we have a duty to protect the public. And we take great pride in what we do – it’s what we signed up for. However, our safety should not be based on the roll of a dice,” said Patrick McGoldrick, AFSCME Local 1565 Chief Steward and Correctional Officer (CO) at Garner Correctional Institute. “Similarly, to police officers on the street, we know officer presence reduces the risk of assaults on staff and other inmates. We are dangerously outnumbered. We need more correctional staff in our units.”

The two-week wave of assaults began August 22 notably with two COs at Garner Correctional Institute being stabbed by an inmate, one in the neck and one in the chest, leaving them hospitalized with serious injuries. Just days later, a CO at Cheshire Correctional Institute was viciously beaten while protecting an inmate from an unprovoked attack by another inmate during mealtime. 

The week after, several inmates were involved in a melee at Corrigan Correctional Institute, followed by a juvenile corrections counselor at Manson Youth Institution being attacked by a juvenile inmate during a basketball program. Then, a CO at New Haven Correctional Center was assaulted by an inmate who had just been transferred. Finally, two COs at Cheshire Correctional Institute were assaulted during a routine cell inspection, by an inmate who became irate at their contraband being confiscated.

This wave of assaults did not come out of nowhere – it is a  direct result of the insufficient number of staff posts within the correctional facilities, the increase in inmate recreational time due to legislation passed last year that did not provide for additional activities and programming as well, and the removal of  mechanisms for COs to separate violent inmates from the rest of the population.

“We are working in fear. The staff don’t have the resources to keep each other safe, or to keep the inmate population safe from inmates who choose violence,” said Robert Beamon, AFSCME Local 391 Vice President and CO with nearly two decades of experience. “We need immediate action before lives are lost. We all have a right to go home in one piece.”

Although the state legislature did not take up the issue of correctional staff assaults in the special session, the fight is not over. Council 4 Corrections members are committed to continuing to advocate with legislators until they provide an adequate response and sufficient staff posts to ensure Corrections members and inmates remain safe inside correctional facilities.