Lawmaker to name prison staffing bill for Minn. CO killed on duty

The bill, which would increase staffing at state prisons, would be named for fallen CO Joseph Gomm


By Ryan Faircloth
Pioneer Press

ST. PAUL, Minn. — A DFL lawmaker will bring forward a bill next year that would increase staffing at state prisons, and he will name the measure after fallen corrections officer Joseph Gomm.

State Rep. John “Jack” Considine, DFL-Mankato, will introduce the “Joseph Gomm bill” in the upcoming legislative session, which begins Jan. 8. Considine said he hopes that putting Gomm’s name behind the bill will bring lawmakers of both parties to the table.

Officer Joseph Gomm was attacked in an industry building at a prison and died of blunt-force trauma.
Officer Joseph Gomm was attacked in an industry building at a prison and died of blunt-force trauma. (Photo/ODMP)

“Prison staff in general are forgotten by the public,” said Considine, a former corrections program director who will chair a legislative subcommittee on corrections next year. “The young man’s death was a tragedy.”

Gomm was killed by an inmate at the Stillwater prison in July. Edward Muhammad Johnson, the suspect in Gomm’s death, allegedly used a prison-issued hammer and two makeshift knives in the attack. Johnson has been charged with first-degree premeditated murder and first-degree murder of a corrections officer.

Two months after Gomm’s death, Oak Park Heights corrections officer Joe Parise died of a medical emergency after responding to an attack on a fellow officer.

SPIKE IN PRISON ASSAULTS

The assaults are part of a spike in violence in the state prison system. From June 2017 to June 2018, assaults against officers more than doubled at the Stillwater prison and increased 74 percent at Oak Park Heights.

Earlier this week, Considine discussed the bill with corrections officers and members of the union that represents them at his home in Mankato. They outlined a need for 300 more corrections officers over the next four years, Considine said, with funding for up to 150 new officers needed as soon as next year.

AFSCME Council 5, the union that represents state corrections officers, declined to comment on the bill.

PAST STAFFING REQUESTS WENT NOWHERE

The Department of Corrections requested state funding for 187 more officers last year but did not receive any, spokeswoman Sarah Fitzgerald said. The DOC currently employs 2,133 officers.

“We appreciate Representative Considine’s commitment to funding more corrections officers,” Fitzgerald said in an email. “Naming the legislation after Joseph Gomm honors his memory and the work of all our officers.”

Mike Padden, the attorney representing Gomm’s family, said they are pleased that Gomm’s name is on the bill.

“That’s certainly important to them because they’re dealing with a tragedy … but they don’t want it to happen to anyone else,” Padden said.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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