Safety of Public and Law Enforcement Threatened by Budget Cuts and Privatization
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This week the Bureau of Prisons has started to eliminate roughly 14% (or 6,000) law enforcement positions throughout the Agency. This is catastrophic for the safety and security of our institutions and the community. The proposed cuts are coming at a time of severe understaffing in most of our federal prisons, because the BOP has left thousands of authorized correctional workers’ positions vacant all year.
In 2005 the BOP instituted an initiative known as “Mission Critical” in which staffing at the BOP institutions was reduced to the minimal amount necessary to safely operate each facility. Since then we have continued to operate under this “bare bones” approach, which was less staff than what we really needed – the administration did not take into account leave usage, injuries, military service, emergency situations etc. when calculating these numbers. Since then, they have relied upon initiatives such as augmentation at various times (The term augmentation refers to the practice of using teachers, secretaries, nurses, etc. to cover the vacant correctional officer positions as opposed to hiring the law enforcement officers needed). They only left enough personnel in the prisons to cover essential operations, so whenever something happens outside of that, like inmate medical trips or staff using sick leave when they are ill or injured, the Agency is then forced to pay overtime to law enforcement officers to cover it. Their miscalculation in staffing led to massive amounts of overtime due to the sheer amount of disturbances and medical care in the institution, coupled with the injuries and stress borne by the staff. This leaves fewer staff able to respond to emergencies in the prison, and fewer to prevent violence and assaults. It also results in one law enforcement correctional worker supervising hundreds of dangerous felons - terrorists, gangs, and murderers – with no backup.
This administration is setting the agency up for failure. As violence and recidivism rises, and our staff struggle to meet ACA accreditation requirements, the line staff will be blamed for these failures, and the administration will point to this as an excuse to contract out our law enforcement role to the private prison industry. The highly trained staff that work for this agency (30% of which are military veterans) have already proven that we provide the essential, inherently governmental function in a much more responsible and cost-effective manner than the private industry. The historical data and evidence backs this up without question. If we allow the administration to sabotage our operations with the dangerous staffing changes and policies, I’m confident that they will use the results against us, and I’m sure the shareholders in the private prison industry will profit from it.
The number of staff assaults and inmate assaults continue to rise in the Bureau of Prisons, and it appears the agency is turning a blind eye to the safety of the community that we are sworn to protect from the nation's most violent offenders These poorly implemented tactics have led to the increased escape attempts and assaults within the BOP, for both inmates and our law enforcement personnel. Agency leaders have stated that assaults and escapes are the chances we take in this line of work. Its disheartening to know that they are willing to take chances with the safety of the community as well as the safety of the law enforcement that work behind the fences.
We are asking that our elected officials properly fund our prisons, stop the reductions of safe staffing, and support our law enforcement officers. A vote for BOP cutbacks is a vote for unsafe prisons, unsafe communities and a vote against law enforcement.
Call 202-224-3121 or 844-669-5146 and tell our law makers not to cut back on safety
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