Union Calls Years of Delays “Unconscionable”
WASHINGTON—The Council of Prison Locals of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) today called for the trial against the accused killer of slain correctional officer Scott Williams to proceed after years of delays. Williams was killed nine years ago yesterday while working as a correctional officer at the Lompoc Federal Correctional Complex in California.
“It is unconscionable that the accused killer, who was captured by video cameras fatally attacking Scott Williams, has manipulated our legal system to flout the law and evade justice for nine years,” said Bryan Lowry, president of the Council of Prison Locals, which represents staff in federal correctional institutions.
Three other correctional officers were injured in the attack that claimed the life of Williams: Scott Leedham, Marcos Marquez, and Mark Stephenson. Lowry said that for years correctional officers have reported an increase in prison violence. Over the past five years the Bureau of Prisons (BoP) has cut staffing levels. To hide the staffing disparity between current levels and what is necessary to operate prisons safely, Lowry said BoP subsequently reduced the number of authorized staff positions at correctional facilities.
“On paper it might look like a facility is 90% staffed, but the reality is that the number of employees is down from just a few years ago while prison populations continue to rise,” said Lowry. “There are many absurd tales I could share due mainly to staffing level cuts, like an instance where one correctional officer was assaulted and knocked unconscious while watching a gym alone and another incident where a counselor was the lone monitor for two cell blocks. Does BoP expect inmates to guard themselves?”
Lowry said the fatal attack on Williams raises questions about the numbers BoP touts pertaining to violence in prison. BoP raw numbers show an increase in assaults on staff despite the fact that many events are not counted. Lowry said uncounted assaults include incidents in which staff are spit upon or when objects or substances, which may include blood or feces, are thrown at staff. Lowry said aside from not counting some incidents, BoP is manipulating assault data in more insidious ways. First the agency has begun to count incidents in which multiple staff are affected
as one assault. So the attack that claimed the life of Scott Williams could be counted as one
assault even though four correctional officers were harmed. Secondly the BoP downplays raw assault totals in favor of post-adjudication numbers. With regard to this second practice Lowry raised a question, is the attack that killed Scott Williams and injured three other correctional officers not counted in BoP post-adjudication numbers? Because the accused has yet to stand trial, it would seem that the attack would not fit into the post-adjudication category.
“Playing games with the data won’t make prisons safer,” said Lowry. “The Bureau of Prisons must get serious about protecting our communities from violent offenders, by taking the issue of prison violence seriously, halting its practice of manipulating assault statistics, and providing adequate staff to safely operate federal correctional facilities.”
“BoP can’t control how the justice department handles the case against the accused killer of Scott Williams or when the judicial system will move the case forward. But BoP can control how it honors the memory of Scott Williams and protects staff and our communities from potential future violence,” said Lowry.
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union representing 600,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia. For more information visit www.afge.org.