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Security Hospital Layoffs Raise Safety Concerns

July 16, 2008

St. Peter, MN – Today's staff layoffs at the Minnesota Security Hospital and similar facilities may be just the beginning. Eliot Seide, spokesman for the state's largest public workers' union, AFSCME Council 5, says these job cutbacks are particularly critical because they heighten safety risks, both for the public and some state employees.

"Today, 63 security jobs were cut at the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter. These security hospitals house sex offenders and mentally ill patients who are dangerous to themselves and the public. Most of these patients would be in prison if they weren't mentally ill."

Seide says other layoffs are planned at state-run facilities in Anoka, Brainerd, Fergus Falls and Willmar. He blames the layoffs on the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS), which he accuses of overspending by $15 million. He says public safety should not be compromised as a result.

"These are very dangerous people, and our job is to keep both workers and the public safe. That's our top priority. If there aren't sufficient workers to take care of these facilities and to keep these patients out of harm's way and out of the public's way, this puts the community and the workers at risk."

In Seide's view, frontline workers know best how to reduce costs while maintaining safety; he says they would be glad to share ideas with the DHS.

AFSCME has scheduled a news conference today to call attention to the layoffs. It will be held at 2:30 p.m. at the Minnesota Square Park gazebo in St. Peter.

Jim Wishner/Steve Powers, Public News Service - MN