A second incident at a high-security federal prison in Texas this year has raised concerns among lawmakers and union officials about staff at the site and the prison agency as a whole.
On Sunday morning, Bureau of Prisons officials responded to an altercation between two inmates at a prison that is part of a federal correctional facility in Beaumont, Texas. One prisoner was transferred to hospital after being pronounced dead, and another was treated for minor injuries at the institution, the agency said. This was followed by a separate incident in Beaumont in January, which caused a national blockade of BOP institutions.
Representative Randy Weber, R-Texas, Member of BOP Reform Caucus, representing the county where the Beaumont facility is located, sent a letter to the director of the Bureau of Prisons Michael Carvajal on Monday about the incident and related concerns.
“These deadly changes among prisoners threaten everyone in the room – both prisoners and correctional staff – and increase already dangerous working conditions,” Weber said. wrote in his letter Monday. “The staff at the Beaumont Federal Correctional Facility is overburdened, underpaid and the BOP does not provide the resources needed to create a safe environment.
While Weber’s legislation in the fall aims to rectify the situation with the payment of correctional workers, the bureau itself needs to address other issues, he said. In particular, “I was informed by [correctional officers] at [U.S. Penitentiary] Beaumont said the BOP had used the emergency withdrawal system several times to fill vacancies, he said, adding that he was talking about “chronic staff shortages” at the facility and others across the country.
“The prison bureau reports directly to members of Congress,” said Randili Jamuso, a BOP spokesman. Government executive on Wednesday the question of the letter. “Out of respect and respect for the members, we do not share our correspondence with Congress [the] media. ”
During a hearing in the House of Representatives in February, Carvajal said that “frequent criticism is that we have insufficient staff”, but there are indeed a handful of facilities that are difficult for staff, including Beaumont. He shared figures on staff numbers that unions and lawmakers are disputing.
Shane Fowsey, president of the Local Prisoners’ Council, a division of the American Civil Service Federation, said Government executive on Wednesday that he could not give details of the recent Beaumont incident, but generally speaking: “It is no secret that the Bureau of Prisons is in a staffing crisis like we have never seen before.” This was the main topic of discussion at a meeting on 28 April. with unions, agencies and other officials, he said.
For Beaumont, one of the safest facilities for BOP, “the number of staff is terrible and in our experience at any time, statistically, you reduce the number of employees to prisoners or reduce surveillance, reported incidents of prison violence, smuggling, attacks on employees, all are increasing exclusively in the other direction, “said Fauzi.
He thanked the Ministry of Justice for the 1,300 additional BOP positions proposed in President Biden’s request for the 2023 fiscal budget, but said: “We cannot wait until 2023 for help.”
This was said by Parker Strong, president of the local 1010 of AFGE Government executive he believes that last Sunday’s incident was a direct result of the staffing crisis.
“[Beaumont has] “There were small cases, battles in the yard, where they would lock him up for a while,” he said. “And they would go up, have another incident, and then lock it up. And this has been the case since the national blockade was lifted. ”
With the “decision to put a facility in a lockable state”, wardens can establish controls or apply temporary security measures to ensure the good order and security of their institution, as well as to ensure the safety of staff and prisoners “, Donald Murphy, said a BOP spokesman Government executive. “When securing their facility, we always hope that this security measure will be short-lived and the facility will return to normal operation as soon as possible.
Representative Fred Keller, R-Pa., Chair of the BOP Reform Group, presides over the meeting on April 28 among members of the group, as well as union representatives of the Prisons Bureau, the agency and the Government Accountability Office, to discuss improvements. Keller said Government executive in an interview last week after the meeting that “a lot of it has to do with staff.
He said he was glad that GAO staff were there to talk about the office’s findings, such as a February 2021 report stating that the bureau needed to develop more reliable and consistent methods of using data. to assist in hiring and retaining and to improve the well-being of employees. Of the seven recommendations made by GAO in this report six are still open.
However, Keller said he did not think there was an urgency on the part of the BOP to address issues of action during the meeting.
“BOP is committed to providing appropriate levels of staff to maintain the safety and security of staff and prisoners in all institutions,” Murphy said when Government executive asked about it. “Currently, we generally work with a staff of over 89%. Unfortunately, due to a number of factors, such as the cost of living, some facilities are more challenging for staff. Addressing staffing issues at these facilities is a top priority for BOP and we are actively working to fill vacancies with a particular focus on vacancies for correctional staff by offering a wide range of employment incentives to recruit and retain staff.
The current director of BOP, Carvajal, announced in January that he would retire, but would remain until a successor was named. It is unclear when this will happen.
“I hope the new director, whoever he or she is, comes in and understands that some of the decisions that need to be made are not necessarily in line with the bureau’s headquarters,” in Washington, D.C. , but rather the facilities, staff and prisoners, said Fauzi, who entered his 30th year in the BOP this year.