WASHINGTON - The American Federation of Government Employees today praised congressional appropriators for responding to the union and its correctional officer members by authorizing the Department of Justice to use funds from other accounts to avoid furloughs through the end of fiscal 2013. The move will benefit thousands of federal employees forced to absorb the harmful effects of sequestration.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski of Maryland and House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Chairman Frank Wolf of Virginia allowed the transfer, which will be used to pay the salaries of DOJ employees facing mandatory furloughs.
“AFGE applauds the work of Sen. Mikulski and Rep. Wolf in doing the right thing on behalf of federal employees in the Department of Justice,” said AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. “AFGE members continue to speak out on sequestration and furloughs, and we won’t stop fighting until all furloughs have been stopped.”
Last month, the union was successful in stopping furloughs at DOJ’s Bureau of Prisons, an agency that has been understaffed and underfunded for years. The union says serious inmate overcrowding and correctional worker understaffing plague the BOP system nationwide, and create hazardous conditions for federal correctional officers, inmates, and the communities in which they work.
BOP correctional officers and other staff members inside federal prisons are unarmed, leaving them vulnerable to attacks by inmates with homemade weapons. The need for additional resources can be seen with the countless violent outbreaks occurring at BOP facilities across the country. A correctional officer can be responsible for supervising as many as 150 inmates at once and is unarmed inside the facility. Low staffing levels and a more aggressive inmate population have led to a spike in violence – something AFGE says would only have worsened with mandatory furloughs.
“Federal correctional officers and staff are the foundation of a secure federal prison system,” added Cox. “Proper staffing is the best way to combat the rising inmate population. Reducing staffing levels through furloughs would only have created a more dangerous environment for correctional officers and the surrounding communities.”