Washington—The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), which represents federal correctional officers nationwide, including the federal Supermax facility in Florence, Colo., sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales requesting a meeting to increase the dangerously low staffing levels within the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). AFGE Council of Prison Locals President Bryan Lowry made the request in an effort to reverse a trend consisting of cutbacks, vacating Mission Critical Posts, and an overall lack of staffing throughout the BOP.
“This concept of ‘doing more with less’ is destroying the sanctity of our security within the BOP,” said Lowry. “We can no longer sit back and remain idle while our staffing levels continue to drop and our inmate levels rise. Proper staffing levels within our federal prisons are essential to maintaining the safety and security of our correctional officers, inmates, and surrounding communities.”
In addition, a recent unpublicized outbreak of assaults at the United States Penitentiary in Florence, Colo., which is located in the same complex as Supermax, resulted in numerous injuries to federal correctional officers who secure the high-security facility. Other facilities nationwide have also seen an increase in assaults, both inmate-on-inmate and inmate-on-staff, which is a direct result of the grave staffing levels throughout the BOP.
Convicted terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui was sentenced last year to six life sentences in the Supermax prison, a BOP facility that has seen significant decreases in the staffing of its Mission Critical Posts since September 2005. Mission Critical Posts are posts deemed by BOP as essential to the safe and secure operation of its facilities. AFGE represents BOP workers at Supermax, and again calls on Congress to grant full funding to all federal prison facilities in an effort to assure the safety and well-being of all inmates, correctional officers, and surrounding communities.
From Sept. 25, 2005 to May 7, 2006, one particular unit at the Supermax facility was fully staffed on all three shifts for just 31 days, leaving the unit to be inadequately staffed the remainder of the time. “The 114 facilities that make up the BOP system are not adequately staffed, and Supermax is no different,” said Lowry. “We’ve reached a critical point and something needs to change. Convicted terrorists such as Moussaoui going to understaffed facilities should be a concern to everyone.”
AFGE says serious inmate overcrowding and correctional worker understaffing such as that at Supermax plague the BOP system, and create hazardous conditions for federal prison inmates, federal correctional workers, and the communities in which they work.