McKinley: Prison Staffing Cuts Jeopardize Safety

Inmate Death at Hazelton Prison Highlights Growing Safety Concerns

Congressman David B. McKinley, P.E., (WV-1) issued the following statement regarding staffing in federal prisons and the recent murder of an inmate at the United States Penitentiary in Hazelton.
Congressman David B. McKinley, P.E., (WV-1) issued the following statement regarding staffing in federal prisons and the recent murder of an inmate at the United States Penitentiary in Hazelton.

“Inadequate staffing creates dangerous conditions for our corrections officers and our communities. Our prison guards risk their lives every day they enter dangerous prisons to protect our communities. Eliminating more positions will only cause the safety in prisons to deteriorate further,” said McKinley.

“The Bureau of Prisons seems to be in denial that staffing is an issue. We’ve seen too many instances of dangerous conditions caused by shortages leading to violence against officers and other inmates. When our federal prisons have to resort to using nurses or cooks to fulfill the duties of correctional officers, the solution isn’t to cut positions. You need to increase your staffing levels. For the safety of our officers, and the communities they serve, this must be fixed now,” McKinley said.

“We will be meeting with Bureau of Prisons Director Mark Inch next week and we will discuss how to solve this problem,” McKinley added.

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.

McKinley has been leading the fight in Congress on the issue of corrections officer staffing levels for years. 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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