* This would be very troubling if true…
State Sen. Dave Luechtefeld (R-Okawville), is voicing concern over increasing violence in the state’s Department of Corrections, noting the number of inmate-on-staff assaults are up more than 20 percent in the most recent fiscal year that ended June 30.
“530 officers and other frontline staff were assaulted during Fiscal Year 2013, that number is a sharp increase from the previous 428. By looking at the Department’s figures we also see that this is the highest number of hits since FY 2004,” Luechtefeld said. “Our primary concern is for the staff at these institutions and we will remain steadfast in our support of their safety and ensuring that our correctional centers do not revert back to a more turbulent and violent time.”
Using the Illinois Department of Correction’s (IDOC) own numbers, Luechtefeld found the number of inmate-on-staff assaults at the state’s correctional centers is at the highest rate of assaults in 10 years.
* There are big problems with this analysis, however. According to Corrections, they count assaults differently today than they did in FY2004. Back then, minor things like spitting on a guard were not listed as assaults. Now they are. IDOC also has two classifications of assaults, regular and “serious.” The “serious” assaults are similar to what they counted as assaults ten years ago. Also, there are more inmates now than back then.
* IDOC’s full response…
Serious assaults on staff in Illinois prisons were down in FY13 and serious assaults of all types were down 35 percent in the same period. As for the FY13 overall assault total being “…highest since FY04,” please keep in mind we now have 10.5 percent more inmates than 10 years ago.
Most important, unlike FY04, IDOC now chooses to classify even very minor physical occurrences such as spitting, throwing food or an I.D. as an assault if they so much as touch a guard’s shoe. Also, when guards break up inmate fights, that could be an assault on staff. All of this inflates assault numbers.
Why do we practice these classifications? Because it increases safety and security by creating an atmosphere of zero tolerance. Inmates know that even the slightest behavior issue will hurt their earned time. Calling them out on small matters keeps them in line, which is why overall serious assaults are down 35 percent. By the way, inmate-on-inmate serious assaults were down 51 percent from FY12 to FY13.
Regarding Pontiac Correctional Center, only 21 percent of assaults there (75 of 345) over the past three calendar years were serious. As for former Tamms inmates, it will take some time to individually check each of those 345 mostly minor incidents, but according to the Warden, an Assistant Warden and numerous staff at Pontiac, former Tamms inmates are no more involved in assaults than are other inmates. In fact, early indications show they are less involved.