Danville prison locked down after assault on guard

DANVILLE — A Danville Correctional Center inmate who previously had been charged with aggravated sexual assault lured a female officer into a laundry room early Thursday morning, punched her in the jaw and attempted to rape her, union officials said Friday.

The medium-security prison on Danville's east side remained on lockdown on Friday following the assault. It will remain so until an investigation is finished.

The inmate, whose name is not being released because of the investigation, was housed in a gymnasium, said Anders Lindall, spokesman for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31. The gym is being used to house about 100 inmates because of overcrowding.

Around 2 a.m., the inmate was sent from the gym to a housing unit's laundry room to wash the gym inmates' laundry, Lindall said. The inmate told the officer the washing machine wasn't working. When she followed him to the laundry room, she was attacked, according to reports.

Lindall said another inmate, who was in a shower area, heard the officer's screams and ran into the laundry room.

"That inmate interceded ... and engaged the attacker until other officers were able to respond," he said.

An Illinois Department of Corrections spokesman said the officer was treated and released.

"Any physical contact with a guard is unacceptable, but ... fortunately, the officer was not seriously injured," said Tom Shaer, the communications director.

"It is important to note, the investigation is continuing, and the assault has not been further categorized," Shaer added. "The inmate who committed the assault was convicted of aggravated domestic battery, and he had presented no such issues during his time at Danville."

Another union official called the attack the first serious incident at the prison in years.

"We've always had fights and minor issues," said Rick DePratt, president of AFSCME Local 2052. "But we've not had a serious attack on a guard in Danville for many years.

On Friday morning, DePratt said the officer would need further medical attention.

While the inmate pleaded guilty and was sentenced to the lesser charge of aggravated domestic battery, Lindall said he originally was charged with aggravated sexual assault. He didn't know anymore details of the crime.

Vermilion County State's Attorney Randy Brinegar said prison officials contacted him about the incident on Thursday, but the inmate hasn't been charged yet.

"I'm still waiting to receive the report," Brinegar said Friday afternoon.

AFSCME officials said the attack is a direct result of the state's overcrowded prison system and understaffing of correctional officers. They added the situation was exacerbated when Gov. Pat Quinn closed the super maximum-security prison at Tamms, which housed some of the state's most violent offenders, and other facilities in the state in April. That came at a time when the prison system had an all-time high inmate population, they added.

The Danville prison was built for 896 inmates. It currently houses 1,931, DePratt said.

Lindall said Danville is one of eight prisons in the state to bunk inmates in the gym in recent months after Tamms and four other correctional facilities were shuttered.

Despite the increase in inmates, Lindall said, the prisons, including Danville's, remain "dangerously" understaffed. He said the facility has had as many as 235 officers in the past, at a time when the population was lower, but currently has only 185.

"Of course, that's ... working three different shifts on seven different days," Lindall said.

At the time of the attack, the officer was alone on a housing unit with 448 inmates, Lindall said. He said prison directives require that two officers be posted on each unit at all times.

"But there has been a practice at Danville and some other facilities of assigning one of those officers to perform other duties during the overnight shift, consequently leaving a lone officer on the housing unit for extended stretches," Lindall said, adding the union has "repeatedly" voiced its concerns to management. "It was during one such stretch of time ... when this attack occurred."

However, Corrections spokesman Shaer disputed that the officer was working alone.

"The corrections officer who was assaulted was absolutely not the only officer with the inmates at the time," he said, adding department procedure calls for three officers — two officers and a control officer. "That proven effective level of staffing was in place during the shift covering this assault."

Lindall also said the inmate should not have been allowed in the laundry room overnight.

"That's something that is contrary to directives. ... When inmates are given jobs like this, they're referred to as porters. There are not supposed to be porters on the third shift," Lindall said.

In a release, Shaer said the Corrections Department "takes all incidents very seriously, as safety and security are our constant priorities.

"We have interviewed the officer, who is at home, other staff and inmate witnesses as we gather all the facts. Director (S.A.) Godinez has also talked to the officer and extended his continued thanks for the fine work being done by this experienced individual and all DOC personnel," Shaer said.

Sections (2):News, Local

Comments

News-Gazette.com embraces discussion of both community and world issues. We welcome you to contribute your ideas, opinions and comments, but we ask that you avoid personal attacks, vulgarity and hate speech. We reserve the right to remove any comment at our discretion, and we will block repeat offenders' accounts. To post comments, you must first be a registered user, and your username will appear with any comment you post. Happy posting.

Login or register to post comments

unity wrote on May 03, 2013 at 11:05 am

So, the prison is waaaay overcrowed.  Having over a 1,000 additional inmates than what the prison was originally built for is unacceptable. This not only puts the Correctional Officers lives in harms way, but the city of danville and surrounding areas in danger as well.  This would be a good time to take a look at our "prisons" and do something before a major problem occurs. Its not Rocket Science.  How many inmates for how many Correctional Officers?  What is the ratio?  My guess is.... its not safe.

Importantlocalopinion wrote on May 03, 2013 at 1:05 pm

I agree. And seems to be two strategies to help equalize the guard/con ratio: 1. Hire more guards 2. Reduce the amount of Cons

As a society  based on the idea of freedom, we need to start reducing the amount of citizens that are in jail.

Are we americans inherently more criminal than other nationalities or are the laws of the land unjust?

yates wrote on May 03, 2013 at 4:05 pm

What do you suggest we do with those citizens, turn them all loose to commit more crimes? More and better staffed prisons might be a better alternative.

Utowner wrote on May 03, 2013 at 4:05 pm

 

Legalizing drugs and implementing common-sense sentencing guidelines would be a GREAT START to cutting the prison population.  We all know that the police and guard unions will not allow that to happen nor will prosecutors who base their careers on 'tough sentencing'.

Erik wrote on May 03, 2013 at 8:05 pm

To the person who thinks that this state has sentencing laws that are to tough. Do you think that when a man molests a child that he should only be sentenced to four years? This does happen in the state of Illinois. Crimes are plea bargained down more often than not. When an assault like this happens there is an immediate out cry to fix the over crowding problem but it is always forgotten in a few days. One of the problems lies with such things as the new prison in Thompson Illinois not being utilized. The Stateville maximum security prison outside Chicago is largley condemed due to it's age. The political machine in Chicago is to strong to allow Stateville to be closed and have the inmates transferd to Thompson. This is another example of how Chicago politics run this state. In addition the govenors decision to close the states only super max prison will eventually result in the physical harm and possible death of some of this states correctional staff. You see gentle readers when the inmates were moved from the Tamms super max it resulted in extremley violent inmates being housed in the states three maximum security prisons. These transfers started a flow of maximum security inmates being transferd to medium security prisons. Does any body else see the problem with this decision?

EL YATIRI wrote on May 04, 2013 at 7:05 am
Profile Picture

The failed "war on drugs" and the "law and order" politicians have produced this situation. Insisting on failed policies from the past will just lead to even more citizens in jail and more overcrowding.  Instead of moralizing about the personal choices people make we need to be pragmatic and common sensical.

END CANNABIS PROHIBITION

Jailing non violent and not dangerous people just for smoking pot is stupid and counter productive.  Nobody is advocating letting all criminals out of jail.  Keep those who are a true danger to society locked up.  

Of note:  it was another inmate who intervened and saved the female officer from her attacker. 

hooiserbuddy wrote on May 06, 2013 at 11:05 pm

As far as the big picture goes the fact that another inmate intervened is irrelevant. If there had been the appropriate number of staff the attack could have been prevented.

FRO wrote on May 09, 2013 at 8:05 am

According to Shaer, there were the required officers on duty.  It also says that the inmate that attacked the guard was not supposed to be in the laundry room at that time of day.  Follow your work instructions and most likely this wouldn't have happened.  Lack of responsibility and allowing a prisoner to go where he wasn't supposed to be is what caused this.  Not to mention that the inmates sentance was plea bargained down from the aggrevated sexual assualt charge to domestic battery.  Again, turn your head away from the problem and it will go away.