Dangers correction officers face every day

Officer killed by inmate prompts security concerns

Correction officer Ruben Thomas was killed Sunday night by inmate, Richard Franklin.
Correction officer Ruben Thomas was killed Sunday night by inmate, Richard Franklin.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Funeral arrangements are in the works for Sgt. Ruben Thomas, who died while on the job at the Columbia Correctional Institution.

The Department of Corrections says Richard Franklin, 37, killed Thomas with a homemade knife.

As Franklin awaits transfer to a maximum security prison and more charges added to his current conviction of two life sentences, Thomas' death highlights the dangers that corrections officers face every day. 

Ruben Thomas
Ruben Thomas

Many wonder if more can be done to protect those who work around inmates, and some say budget cutbacks in the state prison systems could contribute to the danger.

Allen Dixie said he knows the dangers of being a correctional officer all too well. Based on personal experience with convicted murderers, he has strong feelings about how they should be handled.

He said repeat violent offenders like Franklin rarely change their ways, and because of that, should get the maximum penalty.

"If they go ahead and enforce the death penalty, an individual like that would never kill again," Dixie said. "And an innocent person would not lose their life by being around someone that's hostile."

Dixie's brother is currently serving a double life sentence for killing their father back in 1996. He said his brother has a violent nature, so Dixie made what some call a surprising request to the courts.

"I shocked the courts when I said they need to enforce the death penalty on my own brother," he said. "I explained it to them and it also divided my family. I explained if they enforced the death penalty he would never kill again."

Dixie believes that should apply to Franklin, who's accused of attacking stabbing Thomas repeatedly with a handmade object, before injuring another officer with a hard object inside a sock. 

Dixie said making weapons inside prisons is not difficult for inmates.

"I have seen them take a toothbrush and go up to a concrete wall and rub it against the wall and it would melt and bind that toothbrush and keep filing it until it gets very sharp," Dixie said. "It forms into a very sharpened end and that's a razor, a shank, and they can slash your throat with it."

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating Thomas' death and prosecutors will have to decide if they will seek the death penalty when Franklin is charged with murder of a corrections officer.