Lansing corrections officer was working solo when attacked by inmate, union says

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A corrections officer hospitalized after being injured in an assault by an inmate at the Lansing Correctional Facility on Monday was working solo in the maximum-security unit, a union official said.

An inmate assaulted the officer with what was reported to be soap in a sock or something similar Monday morning at or near the chow line, said Sarah LaFrenz, president of the Kansas Organization of State Employees which represents corrections employees.

“The officer has multiple facial lacerations and was transported via EMS to a medical facility for further evaluation,” LaFrenz said. “We are told that the worker was able to call an alarm (using his own radio) to radio for help.”

Investigators with the Kansas Department of Corrections were investigating the assault. It’s the second time this month a corrections officer has been hospitalized after being assaulted at the Lansing Correctional Facility.

“It appears at this time, the officer was, much like the assault less than a month ago, working solo in a unit that houses over 100+ violent offenders,” LaFrenz said.

Staffing at the prison is “severely low,” LaFrenz said, and there aren’t enough workers to cover shifts. So when incidents happen, it takes more time to address them.

As of a week ago, Lansing had 83 uniformed staff vacancies, Carol Pitts, a spokeswoman for the department of corrections. At the beginning of the month, the prison had 73 vacancies.

In the previous assault, which occurred Nov. 3, the officer suffered facial fractures and spent the night in the intensive care unit.

An inmate attacked the officer and repeatedly struck the officer in the face and head, according to a statement by LaFrenz at the time. The officer was assigned to a pod of about 127 inmates that was designed to operate with one corrections officer.

The Lansing prison has been on a modified lockdown schedule since last week, LaFrenz said. Although not completely locked down, such things like yard time are limited or not available.

“This adds to the overall angst for inmates — which leads to very bad outcomes” like the assaults on the two officers, she said.

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