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politico – Union leader: Bureau of Prisons faces dangerous cash shortage

Fausey wrote that due to the Bureau’s financial problems, “all new firm offers” must have a start date on or after October 1, 2021. He wrote that the policy has some exceptions, including for smaller prisons. more understaffed. A spokesperson for the Bureau of Prisons confirmed the development to POLITICO. “New rental offers issued after June 9, 2021 will begin after October 1, 2021,” the spokesperson wrote. “However, we continue to integrate new offerings from rental companies in a few facilities as well as those for First Step Act (FSA) positions.”

The news comes as the Bureau grapples with reports of deadly guard dogs and the coronavirus pandemic. A Justice Department inspector general report released last year found that the office spent more than $ 300 million on overtime in 2019 due to staff shortages, as detailed by USA Today.

But while Fausey described BOP’s predicament in serious terms, a spokesperson for the Bureau gave a rosy description of the situation for the agency’s staff.

“The Bureau of Prisons (BOP) recently launched an unprecedented recruiting initiative to recruit 1,000 new employees in 120 days,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “Through this initiative, we plan to recruit over 1,800 new BOP employees. The Hiring Initiative has been a huge success in increasing our staffing levels and the number of correctional officers.

The statement also said the agency is using social media and job fairs to find new hires and has resumed internal promotions.

The spokesperson also said the office “will be solvent in fiscal year 2021. There has been a budget readjustment due to the success of the hiring initiative.”

Contacted for comment on his email, Fausey reiterated that the situation at the Bureau is dire.

“A clear and dangerous personnel crisis in the Prisons Bureau, as a number of OIG reports and a recent scathing report from the GAO explicitly point out, has pushed this agency beyond its limits,” he said. in a press release provided to POLITICO. “Our employees and officers continue to endure relentless overtime and reassignment as the budget deficit prevents the hiring of much needed correctional officers. We implore the Attorney General and the Department of Justice to release funds. urgently to hire 4,000 new correctional officers in the Bureau of Prisons Future budgetary considerations for the DOJ, Administration and Congress must take into account the human consequences of inadequate funding.

This comes as the office comes under scrutiny by outside watchdogs. The Department of Justice inspector general recently sent a note to the head of the bureau detailing security concerns regarding recent prisoner escapes, including a case where guards failed to detect the escape of four inmates in Texas. for 12 hours. And the Government Accountability Office released a report in February this year, noting that questions persist about “the Office’s ability to fully staff its facilities, the effects of staffing shortages and the mental health of correctional staff.”

The DOJ Inspector General also highlighted personnel issues that have hampered the Bureau’s ability to fight the coronavirus pandemic. During an outbreak in a prison, some staff members worked 40 hours at a stretch due to staff absences. Another prison was only operating with 80% of its authorized medical staff at the start of the pandemic, according to the inspector general.

Staffing issues raised concerns among prison officers. Aaron McGlothin, president of Local Union 1237 at Mendota Federal Prison in California, said staff shortages can put inmates and employees at risk.

“It puts all hard working staff at risk and it could cost someone their life,” he told POLITICO.

McGlothin argued that BOP management cares more about cost reduction than worker safety. “Honestly, they don’t care,” he said. “Our office manager, all he cares about is the bottom line and making sure the checkbook balances.”

The AP reported on Wednesday that officials in the Biden administration were discussing whether to remove Bureau director Michael Carvajal, who has faced fierce criticism over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

More than 240 people in federal prisons have died from Covid-19 during the outbreak. Meanwhile, according to the Brennan Center, federal prison guards have blocked almost all compassionate release requests from inmates particularly exposed to the virus.

“There must be significant responsibility for what happened,” wrote Andrew Cohen of the Brennan Center.

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