Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Death By Budget Cuts

Safety Concerns Grow in Federal Prisons:

As the shortage of correctional officers has grown chronic under President Trump — and the practice of drawing upon other workers has become routine — many prisons have been operating in a perpetual state of staffing turmoil, leaving some workers feeling ill-equipped and unsafe on the job, according to interviews and internal documents from the Bureau of Prisons.
Dozens of workers from prisons across the country said inmates had become more brazen with staff members and more violent with one another. At a prison in West Virginia, violent incidents increased almost 15 percent in 2017 from the year before, according to data obtained by The New York Times. Workers blame the problems on their depleted numbers and the need to push often inexperienced staff members into front-line correctional roles, changes not lost on the prison population.
The Times interviewed about 60 employees of the Bureau of Prisons, some of whom, like Mr. Lloyd and Ms. Gregg, were able to speak openly because they are protected by their status as officials in the prison employees’ union. The bureau did not authorize them to talk, and many other workers who spoke to The Times requested anonymity out of fear of retaliation.
The Bureau of Prisons provided some information, but declined an interview request and, in response to a detailed list of facts in this article, said it had no comment. Big Spring allowed a reporter to tour its facilities, but declined a request to interview its warden and said it forwarded other questions to bureau headquarters. The other prisons named in this article did not respond to requests to interview their wardens.
In other words, a complete gag order was issued by Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions on the BOP regarding the devastating effects his budget process has had on the prisons and officer/inmate safety. This is more than ironic, given his chest-thumping and pride over ripping children from their parents at the border and interning more than 2,000 children in concentration camps over the past few months.
From December 2016 to March 2018, the number of correctional officer vacancies, including supervisory roles, grew by almost 64 percent, to 2,137 from 1,306, according to the bureau — nearly 12 percent of all correctional officer positions.
In the last two years of the Obama administration, the bureau increased the number of correctional officers it hired, with 2,644 in 2016. Last year, the number dropped to 372. The administration has also begun eliminating about 5,000 unfilled jobs within the bureau, including about 1,500 correctional positions.
Cuts are occurring even though Congress increased the bureau’s budget for salaries and expenses by $106 million this year, and both Republican and Democratic lawmakers have called for hiring more correctional officers. As of March, there were 15,927 officers in federal prisons.
Because the bureau is focused on eliminating vacant positions, a press officer said, the cuts “will not have a negative impact on public safety or on our ability to maintain a safe environment for staff and inmates.”
During the last years of the Obama administration, the inmate population shrank as the Justice Department moved away from mandatory minimum sentences for low-level drug offenses, a change that Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, the attorney general, has since reversed.
The bureau expects the inmate population to grow by 2 percent this year and 1 percent next year. The Trump administration is also temporarily transferring at least 1,600 immigration detainees to prisons.
And check out Ernie's rationale for increasingly using non-union, untrained, "augmented" volunteers to pick up the slack:
“I mean, you would have to hire an entirely new guard for one person to spend two hours through the lunchroom helping keep an eye on things,” Mr. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions told a Senate committee.
Documents and interviews with prison workers suggest otherwise. Many prisons have increasingly turned to augmentation, and not for isolated two-hour bursts.
LOL. Like being a professional correctional officer is no different than the "lunch monitors" during lunch time at the local high school. Or thinking maintenance workers, secretaries, teachers or other untrained individuals who work in prison support can just jump into the job of CO and do it.

It's ironic: as much as I bashed Eric Holder for his sloppy leadership and cowardice to prosecute real crime during the Obama years, I never thought the position of AG could be filled by someone even dumber or more unqualified. And yet, here we are, with the DOJ being destroyed from the top down: driving away career prosecutors who are leaving en masse, allowing federal law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, to undergo withering political attacks from his boss and the congress, and now destroying the BOP one chain link at a time. I guess all we'll have left pretty soon, at the federal level anyway, are the concentration camps that are quickly being privatized.

At the end of the day, safety is being compromised in our federal prisons, not just for the inmates, but for the men and women who put on the uniform and work in these prisons, taking care of the inmates, and hoping like hell they make it home at the end of their shifts. And with immigration detention and the overall BOP population expected to rise another 2% this year, we're facing a calamity of riots, violence, prison rape, and deaths that are totally avoidable.
A maintenance worker here at Big Spring, who has stepped in to replace correctional officers as often as twice a week, said the current approach was not sustainable.
“People are going to get hurt,” said the worker, who was not authorized to speak to the media, “all because they want to save a little money.”
Helluva job there, Ernie.

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