A Bureau of Prisons union leader charged that officers’ lives may be in danger if steep cuts, which have seen non-custodial staff filling in riskier prison jobs as needed, keep whittling away at the federal corrections budget.
President Trump has proposed cutting about 6,000 jobs from the BOP as the bureau works toward “increasing population levels in private contract facilities.” The American Federation of Government Employees says that with thousands of positions already vacant, the safety and well-being of inmates and staff is already eroding.
During an AFGE press roundtable today, Council of Prison Locals President Eric Young warned that “prisons can’t be run on the cheap and they can’t be run without adequate staffing.”
“Every day they do it because they love their country … yet here we are today facing an onslaught,” Young said of BOP officers. With the elimination of jobs and closure of some facilities, he said, prisons will continue to rely heavily on augmentation of non-custodial staff, though “the inmates know this that it’s not their actual job” when higher-ups give staffers pepper spray, an alarm and keys “and say ‘good luck.'”
“This isn’t right, this isn’t safe for America, this isn’t good policy for America — especially when we have a president who says he’s for law and order,” he said.
Cuts also chip away at rehabilitation and reintegration programs before inmates are “released out of the system into a neighborhood near you,” Young warned. He added that the Justice Department’s commitment to mandatory minimum sentences “results in overcrowding” adding on to already overstuffed and understaffed prisons.
AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. slammed the administration as “no friend” of the 2.1 million-strong federal workforce and said the union is on guard for the administration firing workers “whose politics don’t align with theirs.”
“Trump made it clear they want them to pledge an oath of fidelity to him … it’s scary and it’s shameful,” Cox told reporters.
AFGE also is fighting against performance-based pay increases as potentially favoring “those deemed loyal to the administration,” arguing that such a system opens the door “to corruption, favoritism and discrimination.”
“No other group has lost more to deficit reduction than the federal workforce,” Cox said.
Hydrick Thomas, TSA Council 100 president and American Federation of Government Employees Local 2222 president, John F. Kennedy International Airport, cited low morale among TSA employees and a record number of firearms intercepted at checkpoints last year while arguing that “no one took this job for salary, but they should be compensated for the work they do.”