Federal prisons throughout the country are experiencing a huge shortage of prison guards, and using other staff members to fill in, according to The Associated Press.
Cooks, teachers, nurses and others work as guards and often pick up more than 60 hours in overtime shifts to keep the prisons running, but this quick fix is causing serious problems for prisoners and administration.
“You can’t do programming, you can’t have safety, you can’t have a lot of things that make prisons operate without proper staffing,” said Kevin Ring, president of the advocacy group Families Against Mandatory Minimums.
The lack of prison guards puts serious pressure on those who are filling the void. By pulling other employees away from their jobs to work as prison guards, the system creates an unhealthy and dangerous work environment, the story said.
“We’re tired of the agency putting a price tag on our lives,” said Aaron McGlothlin, the union president at FCI Mendota in California. “We’ve had staff members killed in the line of duty. We’ve had staff members injured in the line of duty. At what point do they realize they’ve got a problem to fix, and quit putting a Band-Aid over it?”
Union officials state that the current starting salary of $43,500 is not enough to attract new prison guards, nor make up the deficiency in the Bureau of Prisons, which has been losing up to a third of its workers over the years.
They also state that the current budget will not fix the hiring quotas, maintain order or stem the tide of overworked employees who are burning out rapidly.
The COVID-19 virus that spread throughout the federal prisons in 2020 stretched the administration and jumbled correctional officers.
Out of the 20,446-plus employees that work for the system, roughly 7,000 caught the virus, with 235 prisoners and four staff members dying.
After the virus subsided, the Bureau Of Prisons was left with 13,762 workers who were already working overtime and doing the work of two or three people.
This came to a head when famous prisoner Jeffrey Epstein took his own life at one of the most secure federal prisons in the country, the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York. The two prison workers guarding Epstein were both working overtime, and one of them was a warehouse worker who had been assigned to work as a guard.
The AP article said the Bureau of Prisons hired 4,000 new correctional officers in 2020.
But that will not bring them up to 20,446 they had in 2020. Until new hires arrive, there will continue to be upticks in violence, the loss of educational programs, and self-help groups will continue to decline due to staff shortages, the story reported.