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Oregon Corrections Local Presses Case for Safety – and Wins

November 28, 2007

November 28, 2007

The old guard towers are unsafe. Now they will be replaced, thanks to a grievance filed by Council 75 members.

The old guard towers are unsafe. Now they will be replaced, thanks to a grievance filed by Council 75 members.

Photo Credit: Don Loving

It shouldn’t take a grievance – or even the threat of one – to get management’s attention when it comes to employee safety. But that’s what it took to move the Oregon Department of Corrections to approve two permanent observation towers at the Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution.

The medium-security state prison, located in Pendleton, about 200 miles east of Portland, had two observation towers located inside the prison walls. The set up meant that every time armed corrections officers came in to take their posts in the tower, the entire facility had to be locked down.

The towers were moved outside the gates about six years ago. It was a good solution to the employees’ safety concerns. But the portable, makeshift towers the state bought, due to budget constraints, were wobbly. “The portable towers do not create a stable shooting platform,” says Tyler Brickey, a corrections sergeant and president of Local 3361 (Council 75). “If you have to fire the gun, you don’t want to hit the wrong person – the wrong inmate, a staff person or a visitor on the grounds. It’s obviously a very big deal.”

State prison administrators resisted the COs and other personnel’s efforts to get new towers built outside the gates, so a grievance was filed in May. But nothing happened until Council 75 scheduled arbitration. Then the corrections department capitulated, agreeing to build solid, permanent towers outside the fences within a year.

“They will be a visible reminder to our members that AFSCME gets things done,” says CO Brickey.   

 

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