BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – It was standing room only at the LULAC club as ISP workers, family, and friends turned out to help raise money to help support one of their own who currently is still deciding his future.
Jesse Burgher, a 50-year-old corrections officer at the Iowa State Penitentiary, was stabbed multiple times on Wednesday, Oct. 18 while working a hall to escort a prisoner.
Burgher was originally taken to Fort Madison Community Hospital following the incident but was later transferred to University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and then returned home on Friday of that week.
Burgher said he had a very clear memory of the incident.
“I was walking down to a cell and the guy I was working with was already down there letting him out,” Burgher said. “He didn’t have any cuffs on and I didn’t realize that because I don’t work that hall very much and I didn’t know they could come out without cuffs. So I’m walking down there and all of a sudden I see this guy running at me. I didn’t know what was going on, but I saw that he had two shanks on him and then I just went into defensive mode and tried to block as much as I could,” Burgher said.
He hasn’t been back to work since the day of the incident and said he’s still under a doctor’s care and doesn’t know whether he will return to work. He also said he’s unsure of what the financial hardship will be.
“At this time I don’t know about the medical bills because I’m still seeing a doctor. But this is to basically help me to get through until I decide if I’m going back to work or not.”
Sarah Martin, one of the volunteers who helped coordinate the event, said she was happy with the turnout.
“We’ve probably seen 250-300 people already through here,” she said.
“We did this to help Jesse with expenses since he’s been off since October. We’ve done food with free will donations, live auctions, silent auctions, we’re raffling off two guns, and we’re doing a 50/50 drawing at three different times. Then we’ve got a ribeye roll and a bone-in ham for dinner.”
There was barely a seat to be found and the bar area was six or seven people deep while food was continuing to be brought in from the grill outside.
Burgher said most of the people in attendance were co-workers and he appreciated the outpouring of support.
“I see a lot of friends, co-workers, and some family out here. But a lot of them are my co-workers. I’ve even seen people here today that I went to school with,” he said.
“I think it’s great. I mean we’re all union so they’re all my union brothers and sisters that have come out here to support me.”
He said he hopes in the unfortunate event that something like this would happen to someone else, that the same level of support would be seen for those officers as well.
The event runs until midnight and no numbers on total donations were available as of 3 p.m.
The benefit comes just two days after another officer was assaulted at the prison. On Thursday, an officer who has not been identified, was punched in an assault while searching a cell. The incident was quickly controlled and the officer was back at his post after receiving medical treatment that day. The inmate was taken to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics with injuries.