News Local/State

Six Illinois Prison Workers Treated After Inmate Attack

This Aug. 20, 2008 file photo shows the Pontiac Correctional Center in Pontiac, Ill.

This Aug. 20, 2008 file photo shows the Pontiac Correctional Center in Pontiac, Ill. (Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press)

The union representing Illinois prison workers says an inmate punched a correctional lieutenant, sparking an assault that involved six prison employees and five inmates. AFSCME said Monday
that four correctional officers and two lieutenants at Pontiac Correctional Center were treated for abrasions, contusions and possible concussions suffered in the incident Sunday.

They have all been released from the hospital.
The Illinois Department of Corrections has put the facility on lockdown and is investigating.

Eddie Caumiant is the liason between prison workers and the state employee union. He says the assault - by five inmates - was the culmination of a troubling trend of violence at the downstate facility.

"There’s been almost daily assaults with things thrown at officers, there was an officer who was stabbed a couple of times and then we have yesterday’s (Sunday's) bench clearer with several staff injured in one incident," he said.

Caumiant says inmates should stay confined to their cells until the department figures out the root causes of the violence - and completes a sweep for weapons.

Joe Lewis, a correctional officer at the facility and president of the AFSCME local that represents the prison workers, says an inmate started punching the lieutenant and knocked her to ground, then other inmates joined the fray, injuring other employees who tried to help the lieutenant.

UPDATE (2:55 PM)

An Illinois prison spokesperson says an assault on six workers by five inmates at the maximum-security Pontiac Correctional Center appears to have resulted from a failure to follow workplace safety procedures.
Illinois Department of Corrections spokeswoman Nicole Wilson said Monday that the agency's investigation of the incident will include looking into why procedures weren't followed and how future incidents can be prevented.  
Wilson says the assault doesn't appear to have resulted from a lack of policy or a breakdown in existing policies. She was responding to a union statement that policies and procedures designed to keep staff safe have been ignored or superseded by new practices.