The death of a South Texas inmate in a fight in late March has the federal prison system on pace for the highest number of prisoner homicides in at least seven years, reports the Houston Chronicle. Since October, at least 10 federal inmates have died at the hands of a fellow prisoner. That puts fiscal 2008 on track to exceed the 12 killed in the previous fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30. Federal Bureau of Prisons director Harley Lappin told Congress last month about the escalating inmate violence and the need for more guards. He appeared the day after a brawl at Houston’s federal detention center. No one died in that incident, but an inmate went to the hospital. Eight other prisoners and three staff members sustained minor injuries.
Lappin said he needs more money to stabilize a chronically overcrowded and understaffed system. To reduce costs over the past three years, the bureau closed prison camps and eliminated more than 2,300 positions. There are 10 serious prisoner assaults and nearly two serious staff assaults per 5,000 inmates in the 114-prison system. Lappin said controlling the prison population was “complicated somewhat by the emergence of the Hispanic gangs, especially from the Mexican nationals, where they play by different rules and can be very disruptive.” Without $240 million more over six months – mostly to hire 1,200 more staff – Lappin said the number of serious assaults will increase. ”We continue to see a younger, more aggressive, more violent, more gang-oriented offender coming to the Bureau of Prisons, which couples with our need, I think, to look closely at this ratio of staff to inmates,” he said.