Family of murdered Anamosa correctional officer calls on lawmakers to improve prison safety conditio
The family of a correctional officer killed at the Anamosa State Penitentiary is calling on Iowa lawmakers to pass two bills aimed at improving safety conditions for prison staff.
Last March, correctional officer Robert McFarland and nurse Lorena Schulte were killed in an attack by inmates during an escape attempt at the Anamosa State Penitentiary.
The bill includes the name of Matthes, a dental assistant at the prison who was held as a hostage by the inmates and sustained injuries from the attack.
The bills would restore collective bargaining rights for all correctional officers, and include prison health care staff in that category. Prison staff could get up to a month of paid leave if they witness a traumatic event.
The bills would also require self-defense training, more funding for surveillance cameras and contraband screening in prisons and would increase criminal penalties for assaults on officers.
At a press conference at the prison on Wednesday, McFarland’s wife, Sara, said her husband had been hurt on the job prior to his murder.
"If it's the last thing I do, I... am determined to make him proud," McFarland said. "And I'm determined to fight that this will not happen again. But they will have this health, the safety, everything that they need, and they deserve to do their jobs and be safe."
The Robert McFarland Act would define correctional officers as public safety employees for the sake of collective bargaining.
McFarland’s brother Dave said he was shocked to learn that correctional officers are not considered public safety employees under Iowa law.
"Someone please explain to me how correctional officers are not public safety? They protect our public with security and safety every day. I just don't understand that," he said.
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