WASHINGTON—The American Federation of Government Employees’ (AFGE) Council of Prison Locals (CPL), which represents federal correctional officers nationwide, is encouraged by recent budget numbers for the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) in fiscal years 2009 and 2010.
The FY 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Bill calls for $545 million more than the FY 2008 level in the Salaries & Expenses account, which is used to hire federal correctional officers. This figure also is $160 million more than President Bush’s FY 2009 budget request. The bill then calls for $203 million more than in FY 2008 in the Building & Facilities account – $480 million more than President Bush’s FY 2009 budget request.
As for 2010, President Obama’s budget requests $6 billion for BOP during the fiscal year.
“This is a good first step,” said CPL President Bryan Lowry. “We feel like our concerns about the safety and security of our nation’s prisons are finally being addressed. While we continue to examine the numbers, we feel like we’re on the right path.”
For years, CPL has fought for full staffing and funding throughout the BOP in an effort to combat a dramatic increase in violence. As inmate populations increased, staffing levels decreased, resulting in more assaults against correctional officers.
The situation culminated on June 20, 2008 with the tragic death of Jose Rivera, a correctional officer at the United States Penitentiary in Atwater, Calif. Rivera, 22, was killed by two inmates with homemade weapons. Rivera, a Navy veteran who served two tours of duty in Iraq, was employed by the BOP for less than a year.
Rivera’s death drew nationwide attention to the critical situation inside the nation’s prisons. Unarmed and equipped with only a radio, a single correctional officer is often called upon to supervise hundreds of inmates at one time. Given the tragic circumstances surrounding Rivera’s death, CPL has also requested the immediate implementation of stab resistant vests throughout the BOP.
The union says serious inmate overcrowding and correctional worker understaffing plague the BOP system nationwide, and create hazardous conditions for federal prison inmates, federal correctional workers, and the communities in which they work.