STILLWATER, Minn. (KMSP) - For 13 years, Joe Miller worked as a corrections officer at Minnesota Correctional Facility-Stillwater, but after the death of his co-worker Joseph Gomm at the hands of an inmate, Miller is calling it quits.
“My reaction to hearing about his death was absolute horror,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it finally happened.”
“I feel horrible I have to walk away like this, but a man died,” Miller added. “A good man died and I blame the department fully.”
Miller said Officer Gomm was professional, outgoing and positive - while the man suspected of killing him, Edward Johnson, had a temper that made him hit or miss.
“He was embittered towards the department because he lost his eye in an incident at Stillwater, but that occurred before I was there,” Miller said. “He didn’t bring it up on a daily basis.”
Miller said for years employees have brought up safety concerns like a lack of cameras in the industry building where Gomm was killed. They brought up staffing shortages and the Step Down program, which reduces the punishment for assaulting a staffer from two years to 90 days plus evaluations. Those recommendations, however, fell on deaf ears.
After Gomm’s death, Miller said he knew he couldn’t go back.
“When I heard, I knew I was done,” he said. “I have to be done. I’m too young to go to prison every day and feel this way. I’m sick of driving to work feeling like my chest is going to explode. Now, it’s getting people literally killed, so the decision came easy after that.”
Even though Miller no longer works at the prison, he still worries about the people who do.
“Just sitting here now free from that place, I feel a great sense of relief to be out of there,” he said.