WASHINGTON – The American Federation of Government Employees is urging action on a request by union members at Federal Correctional Complex Florence, south of Colorado Springs, Colo., to address unsafe working conditions stemming from the chronic understaffing of the federal prison complex.
AFGE National President Everett Kelley visited FCC Florence on Friday, March 11, to show solidarity with the correctional officers and staff who are calling on the administration to provide the prison with needed tools to help recruit and retain staff – namely, direct hire authority and 25% retention bonuses.
“FCC Florence is the highest security federal prison in the country but is also the most understaffed – a dangerous combination that threatens the safety and welfare of both employees and inmates,” Kelley said. “Our members are risking their lives every day they clock into work. Director Carvajal and the Bureau of Prisons have an obligation to do everything possible to protect their safety and address their concerns.”
AFGE Local 1169 has taken many steps to help resolve the staffing issues, including regularly meeting with agency officials to propose ways to expedite the hiring process and ramp up recruitment of new hires. The local held a rally with other labor groups in September to raise awareness of the issues and even spent $50,000 of its own money to run advertisements on social media to help attract and hire new staff.
“This one local has gone above and beyond in fighting for the workers it represents. It’s insane that the local has had to spend its own members’ money on recruitment efforts that the agency should be doing,” Kelley said.
In December, the Bureau of Prisons approved the local’s request to provide 10% retention pay to staff at FCC Florence and agreed to seek approval from the Office of Personnel Management to pay 25% retention pay to all officers and staff.
FCC Florence comprises four facilities: the minimum-security Federal Prison Camp, the medium-security Federal Correctional Institution, the high-security United States Penitentiary, and the supermax Administrative Maximum Facility.
The prison is currently short at least 155 officers. The chronic understaffing has resulted in officers working vast amounts of forced overtime and non-officer employees, including medical staff and counselors, being assigned to work as correctional officers under a process called augmentation.