Union Says Federal Prisons Need More Staffers

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Five years ago Sunday, U.S. Bureau of Prisons officer Eric Williams, 34, was killed by an inmate. “I think that the Number 1 contributor to my son’s death was the lack of staffing, the fact that he was alone in that housing unit,” says his father, Don, reports the Washington Post. Williams works with the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) in the union’s effort to have the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) hire more correctional officers. “Every day federal correctional workers get up, kiss their families goodbye and leave not knowing if they’ll ever see them again,” said Eric Young of the AFGE Council of Prison Locals. “Yet here we are today facing an onslaught. Right now, the BOP has proposed to eliminate over 6,000 unfilled positions.”

The Trump administration’s budget request for fiscal 2018 included a decrease of 6,132 jobs. The 2019 budget calls for a decrease of 1,168. Young said,. “It’s irresponsible to ‘right size’ officer safety. Prisons can’t be run on the cheap, and they can’t be run properly without adequate staffing.” The BOP argues that the cut in slots will have no ill effects. BOP director Mark Inch told a congressional hearing that, “Over the past few years, the inmate population has decreased significantly, such that today our crowding and staffing levels are much more manageable.” The inmate-to-correctional officer ratio has improved from when it was 10 to 1 in 2013. It’s still much too high, says the Senate Appropriations Committee. “The inmate to correctional officer ratio is currently 8.3 to 1,” the panel said, “a level that is unsafe for staff and should immediately be corrected.” Don Williams said his son was stabbed at least 129 times and his skull was so broken that “I didn’t even recognize him in his casket.”

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