The federal Bureau of Prisons began a 30-day hiring freeze last week and will have to lay off some of its 35,000 employees next year unless the agency finds other ways to avert a budget crunch, according to Director Harley G. Lappin. The Washington Post said Lappin announced the freeze Friday in a memo to employees and disclosed the prospective layoffs last month in a letter to a federal employee leader. The agency has a $4.4 billion budget and operates 104 federal prisons. Layoffs could begin as soon as March and “could affect every employee and position,” Lappin wrote.
Management has told employees that the agency needs to trim costs by $140 million this year and $300 million in 2005, a prison union official said. He added the prospective layoff could wipe out as many as 2,000 jobs. In recent years the bureau has struggled to keep pace with a fast-growing inmate population that has more than tripled since 1990. The agency oversees about 176,000 inmates this year, up from 58,000 in 1990 and 26,000 in 1980.