LANSING, Kan. — This week’s attack on an officer at the Lansing Correctional Facility by an inmate has former employees talking about what they call an ongoing problem.
One man desperate to prevent more violence said he witnessed staffing issues at the prison firsthand.
“This place here is just not safe anymore,” retired First Sgt. Greg Peters said.
Peters worked at the Lansing Correctional Facility for 20 years. He retired three years ago, and since February, he’s devoted time to being a voice for workers still on the inside.
“I’m not going to sugar coat the facts,” Peters said at a committee meeting.
At the Joint Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice Oversight meeting Oct. 26, Peters presented concerns about staffing shortages that he said have a clear link to safety concerns.
About a week later, an inmate in a medium-security area attacked a female corrections officer.
Corrections officers’ union, KOSE, said the inmate repeatedly beat the officer. The union president said workers reported that the inmate attached a padlock to a belt as his weapon.
The guard has a broken rib, several broken bones in her face, and there’s concern about a traumatic brain injury.
“People could get killed, could get beat, they could rape them with only one person in that pod,” Peters said.
The assault happened during the Wednesday evening shift change, and the union claims one officer was left watching more than 120 inmates.
Peters said it’s a direct result of lack of staff.
“On the 17 of October, they were 27 short,” Peters said.
Nearly every week since July, Peters said he sent messages to the Kansas Governor’s Office and repeatedly contacted state representatives.
The Kansas Department of Corrections Secretary didn’t want to talk to FOX4 for this story, but at a recent meeting, admitted staffing is a challenge.
“Our staffing issues are unlike any I’ve seen in my corrections career,” Secretary Jeff Zmuda said.
Zmuda said at the meeting, adult corrections facilities in Kansas are down 520 people.
To adjust, they’ve reduced footprint, put some areas on lock-down and moved officers to 12-hour shift.
“Many of them are working substantially more,” Zmuda said.
Peters said 12-hour shifts is not a solution. He said without change, more officers will wind up in the hospital.
“They’re reactive to the issues, instead of proactive they’ve been told this things going to happen and they don’t do anything about it ‘til it’s too late,” Peters said.
At last check, the officer who was attacked was in the ICU in stable condition, but heavily sedated. Next Wednesday, former and current corrections officers plan to meet outside the Lansing facility to push for a safer work place.