STILLWATER, Minn. -- More than 100 prison guards crowded the lawn in front of the Stillwater Correctional Facility Tuesday with a message.
They say budget cuts have made the jobs of guards more dangerous, and they want more guards added to their ranks.
The union representing the guards blames the Pawlenty administration for the cuts. Union officials say that over the last decade, 400 more inmates have entered the Stillwater facility, but there has been no increase in staffing.
Corrections officers from the Stillwater facility, Oak Park Heights and Moose Lake say they are being put in harm's way because of inadequate staffing.
The union says two inmate melees over the last 10 months could have resulted in guard injury or death. Prisoners know now that they outnumber the manpower of the guards.
Stillwater has 1,610 inmates right now, with only 60 guards on shift during the day and 21 on the overnight shift. The head of the Stillwater Correctional Facility is demanding to state lawmakers and governor's office to stop cutting corrections staff numbers in the interest of public safety and officer safety.
"They do the work for the public, for public safety. They're a proud group of people. They want just one thing - respect and dignity. They also want enough officers to control this prison," said John Hillyard, a Stillwater prison guard.
If a lot of this sounds political, that's because it is. The union Tuesday rallied behind Democratic governor candidate Mark Dayton, and they are blaming these cuts on Gov. Pawlenty and his two terms in office.
KARE-11 spoke to a Pawlenty spokesperson Tuesday, who said it's a matter of politics. The spokesperson said Pawlenty added staff to the Minnesota Department of Corrections in 2003 and 2004.
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