Larned max-security inmates moving to El Dorado despite staff shortage

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All maximum-security mental health inmates in Larned are being moved to the El Dorado Correctional Facility (EDCF). The change comes as the El Dorado prison is dealing with staffing shortages and inmate over crowding.

As of Monday, the El Dorado prison houses 1,218 general population inmates, which is nearly 300 over capacity. Despite that, the Kansas Department of Corrections is moving all 150 maximum security mental health inmates Larned Correctional Mental Health Facility (LCMHF) to El Dorado.

The El Dorado prison says it staffs 400 employees, including correctional officers and counselors, and is currently about 90 employees short.

That and other changes has The Kansas organization of state employees, or KOSE union worried.

"We're very concerned about their safety and well being," says KSOE Executive Director Rober Choromanski.

The state is converting the Larned Correctional Mental Health Facility, to a medium-security facility and has started moving all 150 maximum- security inmates, to El Dorado.

Numbers provided by the Kansas Department of Corrections show that would bring the prison to 440 inmates over capacity.

The prison says the goal is to finish the move, within the next 30 to 60 days.

"They overwhelmingly have to take care of a lot of inmates. The ratio of staff monitoring inmates is out of control any time there's staff that monitor 60 inmates at a time. And some times up to 100," Choromanski says.

The prison says the additional mental health inmates will be in their own housing unit and corrections officers will get training. But the union says employees aren't ready.

"The state is requiring our corrections officers to do work that they're not trained for or prepared for," Choromanski says.

The change is coming at a time, when the prison is already short-staffed, by about 90 employees.

To help cope with the shortage, the prison will start having guards work 12-hour shifts instead of eight-hour shifts.Another concern for the union.

"Every hour over the eight hours decreases your response time and decreases your ability to be able to anticipate emergencies," Choromanski says.

He says ultimately, the changes make things more dangerous for employees, and for the public.

"A lot of Kansas citizens are not aware of the crisis going on," he says. "Our corrections officers are working very hard to keep the public safe. from any type of escapes, etc. We'll see what happens."

Another big concern for the union is the pay at the El Dorado prison.. Starting wages are $13.95 an hour, and the union says that's simply not enough money being paid to keep the prison adequately staffed.