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Prison workers call for change after Douglas County Corrections officer assaulted by inmate

Published: Aug. 29, 2016 at 1:18 PM CDT
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A Douglas County corrections officer is recovering from a brutal attack, that left the officer hospitalized in the emergency room overnight.

Matthew Lathan, 21, is accused of attacking the guard on Sunday night. While details of the attack are not readily available Sgt. Matt Lewis, a veteran corrections officer, called it one of the "most severe" attacks he's witnessed throughout his 18-year career.

The guard that was injured had been working on the job less than six months, and wasn't released from the hospital until Monday.

"Some things need to change to prevent these type of assaults from happening," said Lewis.

Lewis, and several other leaders from the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge Eight, gathered on Monday to voice a displeasure with a recent uptick in jail and prison guard attacks. The topic has become a hot button issue with plenty of examples. Earlier this month nine corrections workers were injured in a brawl within a prison in Lincoln, and leaders with the local union believe they know what needs to change.

"Basically, our feeling is that the current statute for assault is not sufficient to deter this behavior," said John Corrigan, the attorney for the FOP Lodge Eight. "These guys have been to funerals for people doing the same work they're doing."

Corrigan and Lewis said that the goal is to start a push for stiffer penalties for inmates that attack workers.

Currently inmates that attack guards, or other state employees within jails and prisons, are charged with "assault by a confined person." The charge can carry up to five additional years behind bars.

"Most of those have been less than five years," said Lewis. "Some less than a year."

The FOP Lodge Eight is hoping that they can sway legislators to take up the issue during the upcoming unicameral. The belief is that a longer prison sentence for offenders would result in less attacks on guards.

"If one inmate sees another inmate sentenced to a harsh penalty, it may change their mind and deter them from doing the same thing."

The Fraternal Order of Police is a large entity, and the local chapter is hoping that they can use their contacts to start spreading the word that they're looking for a change in current legislation. They plan to begin speaking with senators in the coming weeks.

WOWT 6 News also reached out to Mary Ann Borgeson, the District #6 County Commissioner who has been vocal about recent questions at the Douglas County Jail, to see whether the Commissioners Court would consider working with the local union to push for stiffer penalties. Borgeson said she believed it was the type of issue the county could also get behind to help lobby lawmakers for a change.