Carney frets over pen’s staff

“The BoP would have to hire an additional 9,000 employees just to get back to the 3.57 level,” said Carney, D-10 of Dimock. “Bureau facilities are currently 37 percent overcrowded, and at some facilities, that number is as high as 76 percent.”

Cost-cutting risky

The inmate-to-staff ratio in Pennsylvania state prisons is 2.9 to 1, a spokeswoman said Tuesday.

Recently, officials with the union representing federal corrections officers said cost-cutting is putting workers at U.S. penitentiaries, including those in Allenwood and Lewisburg, at risk.

Tony Liesenfeld, secretary/treasurer of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 148 at the Lewisburg Penitentiary, said for the past four years union leaders have been lobbying lawmakers and administrators to stem the staff reductions.

The higher inmate to staff ratios reflect inadequate funding, Carney said.

In July, the Federal Bureau of Prisons proposed $143 million in possible spending cuts, including not replacing vehicles and equipment, eliminating overtime, reducing corrections officer training and possibly cutting some officer staff positions.

“As a member of the Congressional Correctional Officers Caucus,” Carney said. “I have sponsored numerous pieces of legislation important to the safety and well-being of our corrections officers. It’s been one of my priorities to meet with labor leaders from various federal correctional facilities throughout Northeast and Central Pennsylvania and they know that my office door is always open to their concerns.”

Carney said he has visited the three local federal correctional facilities — including those in Allenwood and Lewisburg — and at each, officials spoke of the understaffing, growing inmate population and funding shortfalls.

“This March, I (sought) ... $5.55 billion for the BOP salaries and expenses account and $400 million for the BOP buildings and facilities account for fiscal year 2009 to ensure our federal prisons are adequately staffed and safer environments for our neighbors and communities,” Carney said. “This year, the letter was signed by 16 members of Congress, the greatest number in recent memory seeking an increase for Bureau of Prisons funding.”

Liesenfeld said the staff at Lewisburg was enthusiastic with Carney’s visit.

“The staff have felt that their concerns have fallen on deaf ears of the Bureau of Prisons administration, and we’re happy to see the congressman touring Lewisburg first-hand to see the limited staffing and excessive inmate population,” Liesenfeld said.

He also noted the AFGE Local 148 hopes to work with the management of the facility through “these trying times.”

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