A Mankato lawmaker said the safety of Minnesota’s corrections officers is paramount, and the death of Officer Joseph Gomm at the Stillwater state prison is a tragedy that could have been averted.

Minnesota Department of Corrections Officer Joseph Gomm was the first state corrections officer to die while on duty in Minnesota.

Democrat Farmer Labor Party State Representative Jack Considine was a security counselor at the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter for many years, and he said Gomm’s murder hit too close to home.

“I have a child, also, that is a custody officer working in the prison system,” he added, “And, yes, it does hit close to home.”

The attack, he said, is likely to have a far-reaching impact on many. “I think that probably was a terrifying experience while it was going on. It’s traumatic for the people that worked with him. This is where things like Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome come from. And, of course, to have an officer lose his life is just unacceptable,” Considine said.

Mankato D.F.L. State Representative Jack Considine.

Considine serves on the state House public safety committee and said Minnesota has long enjoyed a reputation of having a good prison system but, “In recent years we have fallen behind and that’s not a spot where we want to be. The first thing that needs to happen is we need to have more custody staff on duty to make things safer.”

Gomm was killed after being attacked with a hammer in an industry building, where inmates have work assignments in things like welding and carpentry. Inmate Edward Muhammad Johnson, who was serving time for murder, had been disciplined several times at the prison for multiple violent encounters before the fatal attack.

Considine said that while inmate rehabilitation is important, so is the safety of the state’s corrections officers.

Minnesota Correction Facility – Stillwater.

“It’s a balancing act,” he explained, “You have to try to make the inmates better, to turn them into productive citizens. But that does leave openings to have something like this happen. I would say that I think the DOC needs to review the criteria they have before they allow somebody in this kind of situation.”

Gomm, a 16-year veteran of the department, was the first state corrections officer to die while on duty in Minnesota.

Edward Muhammad Johnson had been serving a 29-year term for second-degree murder at the Minnesota Correctional Facility-Stillwater when officials say he killed a guard at the prison.

Since the attack, three corrections officers working at either the Stillwater prison or the maximum-security lockup in Oak Park Heights have resigned. Former Officer Joe Miller said he’s concerned that the state Department of Corrections is putting profit from its prison industry program above corrections officers’ safety.

The Minnesota Department of Corrections has announced Gomm’s funeral service will be held on Thursday at 11:00 a.m. at North Heights Lutheran Church in Arden Hills.

Governor Mark Dayton has issued a proclamation ordering the flags to half-staff all day Thursday.