JACKSON TOWNSHIP — Just a day and a half after an inmate slashed a corrections officer, the lockdown at the state prison near Dallas is lifted and some personnel at the Luzerne County facility have an issue with that.
Union officials say corrections officers are not happy about that lockdown being lifted and that’s not the only issue they are speaking out about.
About 36 hours earlier convicted killer, Joel Perez, allegedly used a weapon crafted from a toothbrush and razor to slash officer Francis Petrowski in the face.
Mike Machita, PSCOA Business Agent for SCI Dallas says the lockdown should have continued through the holiday.
“It would have sent the message that we are not going to tolerate these incidents against our staff,” said Machita.
He says the attack on Thursday is a reminder of the dangers officers, who are not allowed to carry weapons, face at work.
“We are dealing with criminals that people tend to forget, you see them on the news, they lock them up and they are forgot about,” added Machita.
Before taking a leave to work with the Union, Machita spent 20 years on the job. He says during that time the ratio of inmates to officers tripled putting safety at risk.
“It is discouraging, considering where the numbers used to be, and where they are at now, due to budgetary restraints, it is discouraging.”
Machita says grievance procedures and arbitration have not shifted the numbers, so now it is time to try legislation.
Union leaders say when the budget is resolved in Harrisburg they plan to lobby for a bill that would have the ration of inmate to corrections officers written into law.
“I think the legislators have to be made aware of these still are in some cases vicious people that have to be dealt with,” said Machita.
Now in the federal prison system, Senator Bob Casey recently announced the expansion of a pilot program that would allow some staff to carry pepper spray.
But on the state level, there are no plans for anything like that at this time.
Department of Corrections Press Secretary Susan McNaughton issued the following statement.
We have no indication that this incident was anything other than an unprovoked, sneak attack by one inmate. Our actions are consistent with that.
Secretary Wetzel would also like to point out how proud he is of all employees who quickly and professionally responded to and handled the incident.