LANSING, KS (KCTV) — For the second time in less than a month, an officer at Lansing Correctional Facility has been attacked by an inmate, according to the union that represents Kansas corrections officers.
Sarah LaFrenz, president of the Kansas Organization of State Employees, said the most recent attack happened at 4:45 a.m. on Monday in a maximum-security unit and that the guard was working alone in a unit with more than 100 inmates.
“As we understand it, the inmate used a bar of soap in a sock, or similar, to beat the officer over the face and the head,” said LaFrenz.
She said the corrections officer attacked on November 3 spent the night in ICU and is still recovering.
She acknowledged the injuries to the officer attacked Monday were less severe than what the first officer is still healing from, but she contends it’s not because of any improvement in the staffing or setup.
“It is the very definition of insanity is to keep doing things the same way and expect a different result,” said LaFrenz. “We are very lucky than it wasn’t worse than it was, but I don’t think it’s appropriate to depend on luck to keep workers in a safe environment.”
There’s no denying there are staffing shortages at Lansing. Vacancies for uniformed positions are three times what they were at the start of the year.
In January it was 27.
By July, it was 53.
At the start of this month, there were 73.
The most recent number available, as of last week, it was up to 83.
The staffing challenge is not unique to Lansing.
System-wide, the Kansas Dept of Corrections (KDOC) reported a total of 433 uniformed vacancies and 64 non-uniformed. That’s a total of almost 500.
Last week, Kansas Governor Laura Kelly announced incentives that included base pay increases of 5% or more, plus additional pay differentials that vary by position and workplace.
“It’s an excellent, excellent start on this, but it’s going to take time to stabilize,” LaFrenz remarked.
She said the union has asked for at least stopgap changes like having managers go into the units to assist the guards. Sim e the November 3rd attack, she claims the union has received had no response from the KDOC about additional safety measures.
“Here we are, second time we’re talking, similar incident, and we still are not seeing any real change,” LaFrenz lamented.
Looking at reports from across the nation reveals the shortage of prison guards is affecting many other states as well.
LaFrenz says fixing that is just the first step. Even what’s considered full staffing, she argues, is not sufficient.
KCTV5 sent several inquiries Tuesday to a spokesperson for the KDOC seeking a response and has not yet received a reply.