Agency Says Prison Bureau Failed In Toxic Exposure Case


The U.S. Bureau of Prisons failed to address concerns that inmates and staff in several prisons were exposed to toxic chemicals in recycling programs where inmates use hammers to smash discarded computers, says a letter from the U.S. Office of Special Counsel quoted by the New York Times. The office criticized the prison bureau for not investigating the accusations thoroughly, saying the agency’s review was deficient and “appears to be cursory at best.”

The inmates dismantled the computers as part of Unicor, the federal prison industries program that has become one of the nation’s largest recyclers, providing low-cost recycling to government agencies, schools and private companies. Whistle-blower Leroy A. Smith Jr., the former safety manager at Atwater Federal Prison near Merced, Ca., said factory workers in the recycling facility there and at four other federal prisons were exposed to hazardous materials including lead, cadmium, barium, and beryllium when the inmates took hammers to cathode ray tubes from computers.


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