THOMSON, Ill. – The American Federation of Government Employees is urging the Bureau of Prisons to reverse its decision to eliminate a key element of compensation for correctional officers and staff at FCI Thomson in Illinois at the end of this month.
BOP’s regional office announced that the 25% retention pay that employees have received since early 2022 will be discontinued at the end of the month – resulting in a major pay cut for the prison’s employees just after the holidays through which many of them continued to work.
“It is inconceivable that the Bureau would even consider this action given the tremendous, system-wide problems with recruitment and retention that exist in the agency. Our BoP members risk their lives every day to safeguard our communities from the dangerous criminals in federal prisons,” said AFGE National President Everett Kelley, denouncing BoP’s planned action. “They worked heroically throughout the pandemic, putting our safety above concerns with their own health and that of their families. They do a difficult and dangerous job, and BoP thanks them with what amounts to a 25% cut in compensation just after Christmas. This decision must be rescinded immediately.”
“If the retention pay is removed, nearly 150 staff have told us in writing that they will leave for jobs elsewhere,” said AFGE Local 4070 President Jon Zumkehr.
The prison currently has 400 employees, which is 71 employees fewer than the number authorized, representing just 84% of what the prison needs to recruit and retain in order to achieve full staffing. The prison was downgraded from a high-security facility to a low-security prison earlier this year and a new warden was brought in following calls from AFGE to remove the former warden due to the failure to address the alarming number of sexual assaults and misconduct against staff by inmates.
Kelley said the prospect of losing the 150 staff at the prison needs to be taken very seriously by BoP Director Peters.
“We need to keep the retention pay in place and establish a positive rapport and morale with employees while we work through the changes of the new mission at Thomson,” Zumkehr added. “While many facilities have been riddled with staffing issues, Thomson’s concerns could be minimized by keeping the retention in place for all the staff there.”
In October, labor leaders joined AFGE in calling on BOP Director Collete Peters to retain the retention pay incentive at Thomson.