PHILADELPHIA, May 4, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The local union representing City employees working in Philadelphia's complex corrections system today praised Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf for issuing a proclamation naming May 1-7, 2016 Corrections Employees Week.
Local 159, AFSCME District Council 33 President Lorenzo North noted that Pennsylvania corrections system dates back to Philadelphia's Walnut Street jail established in 1773 and the Governor's recognition was appreciated by the members of Local 159. North also said that, in addition to the history of corrections in the Commonwealth, increased attention needs to be paid to job safety issues caused by the dangerous working conditions faced by present day corrections professionals.
"The Governor's proclamation correctly described the high degree of professionalism needed to staff and operate a modern penal system and our members exceed those levels of skills," said North. "The problems of security on the job we face every day remain a major concern, however, and Local 159 members continue to be at risk, especially in the juvenile justice system."
A Local 159 member working as youth detention counselor at the Philadelphia Juvenile Justice Services Center in West Philadelphia was recently attacked by a juvenile and suffered a concussion and a broken nose. Another female Local 159 counselor was attacked by a female juvenile and suffered facial injuries.
While many Local 159 members have been assaulted and injured by adult inmates in other corrections facilities in the City, North said the problem was particularly acute in the juvenile justice area because state laws hindered the ability of counselors to defend themselves from assaults.
"While we appreciate the recognition by the Governor, our members work with some of the most dangerous inmates in the City and, due to low staffing levels and prison overcrowding, are too often exposed to conditions that are extremely dangerous and even life-threatening," said North. "The problems are even worse in the juvenile justice system because state laws limit the use of force and make it extremely difficult for counselors to defend themselves when assaulted by dangerous and violent juveniles, many of whom are nearly adults. Pennsylvania legislators should consider re-examining use of force laws when it comes to juvenile offenders."
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SOURCE AFSCME Local 159, District Council 33