McKinley Fights for Corrections Employees

Bipartisan Effort to Stop Bureau of Prisons Staffing Cuts

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Washington, February 22, 2018 | comments
Congressman David B. McKinley, P.E., (WV-1) spearheaded a bipartisan letter with Rep. Tim Ryan (OH-13), which was signed by 52 Members of Congress, to Attorney General Jeff Sessions urging the Department of Justice to change course on eliminating approximately 6,000 corrections officer positions with the Bureau of Prisons (BOP). These proposed cuts include 127 jobs at the federal prison in Hazelton. The BOP has a history of being chronically understaffed, which has caused the safety in our prisons to deteriorate. McKinley has been fighting for adequate officer staffing levels for four years.
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Congressman David B. McKinley, P.E., (WV-1) spearheaded a bipartisan letter with Rep. Tim Ryan (OH-13), which was signed by 52 Members of Congress, to Attorney General Jeff Sessions urging the Department of Justice to change course on eliminating approximately 6,000 corrections officer positions with the Bureau of Prisons (BOP). These proposed cuts include 127 jobs at the federal prison in Hazelton. The BOP has a history of being chronically understaffed, which has caused the safety in our prisons to deteriorate. McKinley has been fighting for adequate officer staffing levels for four years.

“We must address the staffing crisis our corrections officers face before the safety in our prisons deteriorates further. Inadequate staffing creates dangerous conditions for our officers and our communities. Our prison guards have never failed us when we’ve called them to duty. They risk their lives every day they enter these dangerous prisons to protect our communities from hardened criminals,” said McKinley.

“The staffing issues at our prisons has deteriorated to far that there have been instances where they’re using employees such as nurses or cooks to fulfill the duties of correctional officers. This is unacceptable and insulting to the officers who have gone through extensive training to be able to fulfill their duties. More importantly, it puts their own safety and the safety of other prison personnel and even inmates at risk. This must be fixed now,” McKinley added.

“Just as an overcrowded prison is a dangerous prison, so is an understaffed prison,” said Congressman Tim Ryan. “Corrections officers in our nation’s federal prisons are responsible for ensuring the administration of justice, but also the personal safety and security of staff, inmates, and the public. They respond daily to issues related to gangs, violence, mental illness, sexual assault, and drugs. Even under ideal conditions, it is a tough and trying job. These brave men and women, who willingly risk their personal safety to serve the Bureau of Prisons, deserve better than to have a hard job made even harder through the elimination of 6,000 unfilled positions. As a Member of Congress, I have a responsibility to speak out against the Attorney General’s proposed job cuts that would undermine the BOP’s effectiveness and endanger lives.”

Background
Recently, the Department of Justice instructed the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to eliminate approximately 6,000 unfilled positions at federal prisons nation-wide. These positions have remained vacant because the Department of Justice (DOJ) never lifted the temporary federal hiring freeze from January 2017, and now this massive job elimination threatens the safety of our correctional officers and the security of our prisons.

BOP has a long history of chronic understaffing at correctional facilities across the United States. At several facilities, BOP has already implemented augmentation to make up for already unfilled positions. Through augmentation, BOP employees who would normally serve as teachers, counselors, or trade workers are asked to step into the role of a correctional officer. As a direct result, staff have fallen behind on duties they were originally hired to perform, creating even more pressure in an already dangerous setting.

The safety of the men and women who put their lives on the line every day to guard, supervise, and protect federal inmates must be a top priority. Implementing these cuts across the board without considering the unique characteristics of each facility would undermine safety priorities and make an already difficult career even more difficult by stretching limited resources further.

This is a continuation of several years of work for McKinley. He recently received the Council of Prison Locals Appreciation Award in recognition of his work on federal prison guard issues. He has met with corrections officers on numerous occasions to focus on their priorities, and has taken action:
• Introduced pepper spray legislation to improve the safety of our officers, which has been signed into law
• Introduced a prison guard gun locker bill that was approved by the Judiciary Committee
• Has led on the issue of corrections officer staffing levels for four years.

To read more on the staffing shortage, click here.

Click here to see a video on how the safety in our prisons is deteriorating.

To read the letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, click here.
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