AFGE Council of Prison Locals and Local 1169 are seeking 25% retention bonuses and direct hire authority to reverse chronic understaffing issues at the high-security supermax facility that houses the nation’s most dangerous criminals.
The Federal Correctional Complex in Florence, Colorado, is America’s only federal supermax prison. It is also one of the most understaffed prisons in the country. The prison is currently short at least 155 officers. The chronic understaffing has resulted in officers working vast amounts of forced overtime and non-officer employees, including medical staff and counselors, being assigned to work as correctional officers under a process called augmentation.
Most employers in the area pay more than the BOP, making it an unattractive choice for prospective employees.
Out of desperation, the local last year allocated $50,000 of union funds to advertise jobs on social media to help attract and hire staff.
“Staff using their own money to pay for what is essentially the responsibility of the agency is unheard of,” said Local 1169 President John Butkovich. “Local 1169 has made suggestions to our leadership to improve the situation to no avail and is now committed to bringing national attention to the seriousness of these issues.”
The local sought help from their senators, Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper of Colorado, who sent a letter to BOP Director Michael Carvajal and Office of Personnel Management Director Kiran Ahuja, urging approval of AFGE Local 1169’s request to provide 25% retention bonuses to all employees at the facility and authorize direct hiring authority for the facility to reduce the time it takes to hire staff.
“We believe these steps are necessary to improve recruitment and retention of new staff, and to retain the existing staff,” the lawmakers wrote.
The BOP last December provided 10% retention bonuses to all eligible staff at FCC Florence. The approval was granted three months after the local staged a protest outside the prison complex to highlight unsafe working conditions stemming from chronic understaffing.
But 10% is not enough to solve the problem. The officers are asking instead for 25% retention bonuses for all employees to avoid additional staff attrition and help promote the recruitment and hiring of new staff.
“The understaffing at FCC Florence jeopardizes not only the safety of our members but our community. If BOP leadership, OPM, and our elected officials don’t address our staffing shortage soon, I feel something tragic will happen," added Butkovich.