The BOP is experiencing a shortfall of trained staff nationwide. This shortage has prompted the Justice Department’s Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz to call for an increase in trained prison employees because the shortage has restricted the access of female prisoners to necessary care and services.
“The lack of sufficient staff is most noticeable at larger female institutions,”according to a report written by Horowitz.
For example, it is BOP’s policy that female prisoners may only be searched by female correctional officers, but the shortage does not allow this policy to be enforced because female correctional officers cannot be at each post where searches are conducted.
“Staff shortages are more complicated with women prisoners because it’s compounded when you have male correctional officers in positions where women are required to do the strip searches,” said Kara Gotsch, director of Strategic Initiatives at the Sentencing Project.
Horowitz’s report stated that 90 percent of the female population would benefit from trauma treatment, but the insufficiency of staff makes such treatment virtually impossible.
Staff shortages, combined with overcrowding, has resulted in the use of cooks, teachers and civilian employees to perform guard duties, his report notes.
There are an estimated 7,100 open positions at federal prisons across the country. The Federal Bureau of Prisons has 37,237 civil positions and 19,073 correctional officers. However, these numbers could be reduced by a Trump Administration’s 2019 proposal.
“The BOP will determine the appropriate level of staffing that should be allocated to the women and Special Populations Branch, based on an analysis of its broad mission and responsibility,” said Hugh Hurwitz, acting director for the Federal Bureau of Prisons
According to Gotsch, however, the best solution to this problem is sentencing reform for women with low-level offenses.
“There is never enough money in the federal budget to adequately care for prisoners if we have significant overcrowding and maintain this high-level of incarceration,” Gotsch said.