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Fausey wrote that because of the bureau’s financial problems, “all new corporate listings” must begin on or after October 1, 2021. He wrote that the policy made some exceptions, including for the least crowded prisons. A spokesman for the Bureau of Prisons confirmed the development to POLITICO. “Offers for new rental companies issued after June 9, 2021 will begin after October 1, 2021,” the spokesman wrote by email. “However, we are still accepting offers from new hiring companies in some facilities as well as for positions in the First Step Act (FSA).”
The news comes as the bureau faces bruises from watchdog reports and the coronavirus pandemic. A Justice Department Inspector General’s report published last year found that the Bureau spent more than $ 300 million on overtime pay in 2019 due to staff shortages, USA Today detailed.
But while Fausey was sternly describing BOP’s predicament, an office spokesman gave a rosy description of the agency’s staffing situation.
“The Bureau of Prisons (BOP) recently launched an unprecedented recruitment initiative to hire 1,000 new employees within 120 days,” the spokesman said in a statement. “As a result of this initiative, we are expected to hire over 1,800 new BOP employees. The recruitment initiative has been a great success in increasing our workforce and the number of prison officers. “
The statement also said the agency is using social media and job fairs to find potential new hires and has resumed internal promotions.
The spokesman also said the office “will be solvent in FY2021. Due to the success of the recruitment initiative, the budget was adjusted. ”
When asked to comment on his email, Fausey reiterated that the situation in the office was catastrophic.
“A clear and dangerous personnel crisis in the Bureau of Prisons, as outlined in a number of OIG reports and a recent damning GAO report, has pushed this agency beyond its limits,” he said in a statement to POLITICO. Our staff and officials continue to endure relentless overtime and reassignments as the budget gap prevents much needed correctional officials from being hired until the end of the fiscal year. Future budget considerations by the DOJ, government and Congress must take into account the human consequences of inadequate funding. ”
This happens when the bureau is checked by external watchdogs. The Justice Department Inspector General recently sent a memo to the chief of the office detailing security concerns about recent inmates’ escapes, including a case where guards missed the escape of four inmates in Texas for 12 hours. And the Government Accountability Office released a report in February this year which found that questions remained about “the ability of the office to fill its facilities, the impact of staff shortages and the mental health of prison staff.”
The DOJ’s Inspector General has also highlighted staffing issues that have hampered the office’s ability to fight the coronavirus pandemic. During a prison breakout, some staff worked 40 straight hours due to staff absenteeism. Another prison was only in operation with 80 percent of its authorized medical staff at the beginning of the pandemic, according to the Inspector General.
The staffing challenges have raised concerns among prison officials. Aaron McGlothin, union chairman for local union 1237 at Mendota Federal Prison, California, said staff shortages could put inmates and employees at risk.
“It endangers each of the hardworking employees and could cost someone their life,” he told POLITICO.
McGlothin argued that BOP leadership cares more about cutting costs than about worker safety. “Honestly, they don’t give a shit,” he said. “Our office manager, all he cares about is the bottom line and making sure the checkbook is balanced.”
The AP reported Wednesday that Biden government officials are debating whether to overturn the director of the office, Michael Carvajal, who has faced scathing criticism of his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
More than 240 people in federal prisons have died of Covid-19 during the outbreak. Meanwhile, federal prison guards blocked almost all requests for the compassionate release of inmates at particularly high risk for the virus, according to the Brennan Center.
“There must be meaningful accountability for what happened,” wrote Andrew Cohen of the Brennan Center.