Bennett questions bootleg alcohol in correctional facility during House panel hearing
Rep. Thomas M. Bennett (R-Gibson City) said he didn’t even know where to begin when he was told of the large amounts of bootleg alcohol being made at the Lawrence Correctional Center near Sumner.
“You got my attention there,” Bennett said to Corey Knop, a Lawrence Correctional Center officer and president of AFSCME District Council 36, at an almost five-hour-long House Appropriations-Public Safety Committee hearing Tuesday.
“We have had some very serious staff assaults in the last 18 months, the worst I have seen in the seven years I have worked at Lawrence,” Knop said, adding one of the reasons for the rise in violence is the bootleg alcohol being made from cheaper juice products.
“One of the suppliers we were getting juice from would not give us juice anymore because we were not paying them and it was 10 percent juice. The fix was they went to another vendor and that vendor supplied us with a 100 percent juice, so they were able to start producing alcohol," Knopp said. "DOC (Department of Corrections) doesn’t even consider it a reportable offense unless there’s 5 gallons. Can you imagine having 5 gallons of alcohol in a population like that?”
Bennett asked the panel's first witness, Anne Irving, director of public policy for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 31, to define what exactly is considered a serious assault.
“I have heard DOC in response to these, they are not serious, which is why I began my testimony with if the DOC does not think it is serious that someone is being splashed with feces or grabbed, I think that is the wrong attitude,” Irving said. “I don’t think people should have to go to work with the expectation that is just part of their job.”
“I don’t see that as part of the job description,” Bennett said.
John Baldwin, director of the Department of Corrections, said he firmly believes that the DOC owes it to the staff and the population to do a much better job dealing with the mentally ill in their operations.