COLORADO SPRINGS — Colorado Department of Corrections (DOC) employees held a rally on Thursday to demand safer working conditions.

Members of Colorado WINS (Workers for Innovative and New Solutions), the state employee union which represents over 4,000 DOC employees, are calling for immediate action to fill more than 800 vacancies in Colorado correctional facilities. Fact sheets provided by Madeline Griffith, the Communications Strategist of Colorado WINS, show some alarming statistics:

  • On average there are almost 2 assaults per day on DOC employees in correctional facilities in Colorado
  • There were 1,191 assaults on inmates by other inmates in the last 12 months
  • 360+ of the employee vacancies are security positions to protect inmates and employees

The DOC provided their own set of statistics in an email to FOX21, stating: “in 2021 there were 492 inmate on inmate assaults. There were 535 inmate fights for a total of 1,027 incidents. This is a lower number of incidents than the previous 5 years.”

DOC employees said the lack of staff is making working conditions even more unsafe, because corrections officers are overworked and there is an increased danger of violence.

“They’re burnt out,” said Eric Olsen from the Denver Reception & Diagnostic Center. “We have a high divorce rate. Low life expectancy, 15 years sooner than regular people are supposed to die. And the suicide rate is one of the highest suicide rates of any profession. And with the short staffing, that just makes the problems worse. I sometimes ask myself, am I tired or am I depressed?”

The changes employees are pushing for, according to the fact sheet, include retaining staff, stop arbitrarily mandating overtime, and paying employees from other job classes who step in to fill vacancies.

The DOC also provided staffing information pre and post-pandemic:

  • In April of 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic, the DOC had 576 vacancies. In April of 2022, that number was 978.
  • For fiscal year 2019/2020, the department’s average number of monthly job applicants was 1,149. Currently that number is 719 a month – that includes all applicants, not just those who are qualified for the open positions.
  • The Department’s turnover rate was 15.7% in April of 2020, compared to 22.6% in April of 2022.

The DOC said it has been actively negotiating a State Entity Partnership Agreement (otherwise known as a collective bargaining agreement) in good faith with Colorado WINS since February and are in regular communication with them to come to a consensus regarding this agreement.