As the Trump administration continues to gut the Bureau of Prisons’ budget – slashing 6,000 necessary positions – local BOP leadership in Oakdale, Louisiana, is compounding the problem.
According to AFGE Locals 1007 and 3957, only 456 of the budgeted 526 positions are currently filled at Oakdale I and II, and that number could be dropped by more than 77 after it was announced by President Trump that the BOP was going to lose 6,000 positions nationwide. Federal prisons have been dangerously understaffed and forced to augment staff members like accountants, receptionists, and counselors as officers.
Compounding the issue of understaffing are new rules and regulations implemented by acting-Warden Willis. In the past, three Correctional Officers would escort high-security prisoners on trips outside of the prison compound, while carrying weapons for self-defense and protection. But now, per the warden, only two Correctional Officers will escort these prisoners, and will be forced to do so without any protection.
“The men and women who stand guard at Oakdale are already facing an uphill battle with staffing deficiencies and augmentation, and now we’re being told that we must be placed in further danger by the Warden – without any real explanation as to why,” AFGE Local 1007 and 3957 Presidents Ronald Morris and Corey Trammel said in a joint statement. “Our communities know peace because we do our jobs well. But now, after years of following procedure, we’re being told now that we must work with less guards and no weapons for protection. It’s horrifying to see our colleagues’ safety jeopardized by this reckless new policy, and it’s putting the general public at risk now too,” they said.
Morris and Trammel say that officers have faced issues in the past when escorting prisoners, and fear for the safety of their officers if Willis doesn’t revert to the previous policies.
This problem is exacerbated by the Warden’s denial of new regurgitation masks – used when correctional officers are exposed to bodily fluids from inmates – and is a break from the standard procedure in place for years.
“The staff at Oakdale did not receive regurgitation masks last fall as we have in the past,” they said, adding, “We have requested them on behalf of all staff, and acting-Warden Willis is refusing to make them readily available to us. This is a life safety issue, and must be addressed soon.”
Morris and Trammel also say that current Counselor and Case Manager caseloads are being ignored, as guidelines have previously stated they should be between 150-200 and now are “255 per counselor – well outside the policy guidelines.”