Social worker Chris Yelen spoke about his experiences working inside the Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center. Credit: Rachel Baye

Social worker Chris Yelen said he has already been assaulted twice on the job working in a maximum security unit over the past year inside the Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center, a state psychiatric facility in Jessup.

The most recent attack happened on May 5, as Yelen was leaving a conference room with a patient.

“Another patient just came up to me and started punching me in the face, in the neck, in the back, in the shoulders — punched me I don’t even know how many times,” Yelen recalled. “A patient had to get him off of me. There was no security presence that was there to get that patient off of me.”

Almost six weeks later, Yelen is not yet able to return to work, pending medical clearance. Even so, he is not sure he will ever want to go back.

“There’s times when I felt like I should be safe … working [in] a maximum security facility, but haven’t felt safe and haven’t been safe and have had these things occur,” he said. “That’s the part that scares me.”

The Maryland branch of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the union that represents Yelen and other Perkins workers, says assaults on both patients and staff there have become routine due to understaffing of security attendants.

Read more (and listen) at WYPR.