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Photo Credit: Katie Moy-Santos

Council 3 Fights for Safe Staffing in the Department of Juvenile Services After Riot

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By Katie Moy-Santos Worth the Fight Health & Safety

AFSCME Council 3 is fighting to increase staffing in Maryland’s juvenile detention facilities after 11 workers at a Frederick County facility were injured during a recent outbreak of violence.

On April 8 Maryland State Police responded to violence at the Victor Cullen Center in Sabillasville. Eight youth had locked staff members in an office, taken over the building and begun attacking staff members using their own equipment. By the time the maximum-security youth facility was secured, eight staff members were taken to the hospital with injuries and another eight received medical attention on site.

 “For months, we have consistently warned that an incident like this was inevitable because of the ongoing staffing crisis in detention facilities, hospitals and departments across Maryland. This is the second time Maryland State Police have responded to an outbreak of violence at Victor Cullen Center in two years,” explained AFSCME Council 3 President Patrick Moran.

Throughout his first term, Gov. Larry Hogan has failed to address the critical understaffing in state detention facilities, and his current budget proposal would make the situation worse. Last year, budget analysts found that the state was short 2,631 positions. Yet, Hogan’s budget proposal called for eliminating 400 positions at just one facility – Maryland Correctional Institution in Hagerstown.

For front-line staff, chronic understaffing means reporting to work unsure of when they’ll be able to leave. At the Victor Cullen Center, staff are routinely required to stay for involuntary overtime for up to 24 hours just to maintain minimum safe staffing levels.

AFSCME Local 3167 President Denise Johnson said, “We have a saying: Lord, let us come out the way we came in.”

The day after the violence, AFSCME Moran confronted Hogan at a press conference in Annapolis on the last day of session.

Hogan told reporters that the facility was fully staffed and that all injured staff had been released from the hospital.

But Moran told reporters, “Right now, one of our members is in surgery for a broken jaw. Victor Cullen Center is short 14 positions and Governor Hogan is trying to run Maryland like his development firm.”

How many more state workers need to get hurt before Governor Hogan finally takes action?

AFSCME represents 85,000 corrections officers and employees throughout the country; they are men and women who don’t think twice about putting their communities’ safety first. But they shouldn’t have to risk their lives unnecessarily or make the ultimate sacrifice to make up for chronic staffing shortages.