The headline in the Pueblo Chieftain, one of the local papers, was "Inmate assaults two
federal prison staffers,
Injuries to the workers were not serious, officials said." The press release certainly did not adequately present the
true scope of the incident, and this lead the media to inaccurate reporting.
On December 21, 2010, an inmate assaulted
to staff members. The inmate hit one staffer so hard, he fell back and cracked his skull. The inmate also injured
another staffer. Two other staff members responding did get minor injuries not needing outside treatment.
staff member with the cracked skull also had brain hemorrhage problems. He was taken to a local hospital but then flown to
a larger hospital because of the serious nature of his injuries. He still remains in intensive care (ICU) but in stable
William Edwards was just elected President of American Federation of Government employees, Council of Prison
Locals 1301 (AFGE CPL 1301), last week.
President Edwards explained, " it was fortunate that there were three other staff members able to respond. Normally
there aren't three other staff members available."
Edwards went on to say, "With three prisons coming online in the
BOP system and no increase in funding from Congress, staff for the new facilities with have to come from existing staff in
the BOP. The system is already strained. Assaults like the serious one that happened Tuesday at USP , Florence
could happen more often."
Professional correctional staffers can always encounter dangerous situations. This
is especially true in a United States Penitentiary. Professional Correctional Officers
and Professional Correction Staff are the unsung heroes of public safety.
Proper staffing levels and training
help prevent assaults.
Please keep our fellow staffer from USP, Florence in your thoughts and prayers.
Please also send out your thoughts and prayers to his family.
What you can do additionally? Call
your Congressman and US Senators and tell them you are upset that the Bureau of Prisons did not accurately release the true nature
of the assault on staff Tuesday December 21, 2010 at the United States Penitentiary at Florence.
Ask them to
ask the BOP why they down played the assault. Finish by asking if they are going to support an increase of staffing
across the BOP system for the safety of those protecting America's safety.
If you leave them a message, ask
them to call you back with his/her response. If you email, ask for an email response. Please note, most members of congress won't return till after the holidays.
Federal pay and benefits could change with new Congress
By Emily Long
In recent months, there's been a lot of talk about proposed hiring and pay
freezes and mandatory furloughs in the federal government. But those ideas could become reality if Republicans on Tuesday win the necessary 39 seats to gain
control of the House.
House Republicans unveiled their Pledge to America in September,
promising to reduce the size of government and freeze hiring for all nonsecurity-related federal positions. Lawmakers in both
chambers also have pushed several measures that would affect federal jobs and benefits. For example, Republicans have introduced legislation that would furlough all federal civilian workers for up to two weeks in 2011 and make
those with outstanding tax debts ineligible for continued government employment. Bills in both chambers would cap the federal
workforce through attrition or by allowing agencies to hire only one employee for every two employees who leave.
In addition, GOP lawmakers have used the YouCut program to push federal
workforce reductions. The initiative, designed to control government spending, allows the public to vote online, or via text
message each week on legislative proposals. The winning idea goes to the House floor.
Federal workers have friends in both parties, says Jessica Klement, government
affairs director for the Federal Managers Association. While the group's priorities won't change based on leadership on Capitol
Hill, election results could affect progress in achieving those goals.
"[Federal employees] have strong supporters on both sides of the aisle, but
a quick tour of the YouCut website tells you the priorities of [Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio] and [Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va.]," said Klement. "If those are priorities
of the leaders, they could become more than just something the American public votes on."
If Republicans gain control of the House, Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., will no longer be majority
leader. Hoyer has been an advocate for federal workers' concerns, and union leaders
have said a leadership change could affect the tone of the conversation about the government workforce or even invite attacks
on federal employees.
"Democrats will keep the House, and I will continue to work with members across
the aisle to address the issues of importance to federal employees, many of whom are my constituents," said Hoyer in a statement
to Government Executive.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., would assume the chairmanship of the Oversight and Government Reform
Committee if Republicans win the House on Tuesday. Issa's office in September released an outline of priorities for
the committee under his leadership. The report, which focused on issues like stimulus spending, health care oversight, federal agency performance management and domestic terrorism, cited a growing
federal workforce as a potential contributor to government waste, fraud and abuse. Issa spokesman Frederick Hill said the
committee does not yet have a more specific agenda outside of those guidelines.
Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah would take over the subcommittee tasked with overseeing the
federal workforce and U.S. Postal Service. Chaffetz angered many government
employees and union leaders earlier this year when he introduced a bill to fire government workers who owe back taxes. He
also has drawn criticism from the postal community for his opposition to the agency's five-day delivery plan and
his proposed legislation granting the Postal Service 12 postal holidays
every fiscal year to suspend mail delivery.
USPS spokeswoman Joanne
Veto said leadership changes won't affect the Postal Service's legislative agenda. The agency has been pushing for flexibility
to close post offices for economic reasons, determine the number of weekly mail delivery days and adjust requirements to prefund
its retiree health benefits.
Union leaders have said they will continue to work with both Democrats and
Republicans on issues in support of their members, but acknowledged it could be hard work. Colleen Kelley, president of the
National Treasury Employees Union, expressed concern that a Republican takeover
could lead to freezes in federal hiring and pay, as well outsourcing accompanied by cuts in government
"We're extremely concerned about a change in the House because many of these
new congressional people coming in are obsessed with this rolling back government to some small government," said John Gage,
president of the American
Federation of Government Employees. "I think we will be in really tough shape on appropriations and federal pay. I
don't know if they're gung-ho enough to go after federal health care and
retirement, but I wouldn't put it past them."
On the Senate side, there is less change expected for the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
Committee Chairman Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and Ranking Member Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine,
have a positive working relationship, which Collins has pledged to continue regardless of Tuesday's outcome. The roster of
the federal workforce subcommittee will change, however. Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, long active in federal employee issues is planning to retire, while
appointed Sens. Ted Kaufman, D-Del., and Roland Burris, D-Ill., will not
According to committee spokeswoman Leslie Phillips, legislation extending
benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees is likely to be on next year's agenda, in addition to issues like homegrown
terror, cybersecurity legislation, reform of the Federal Protective Service, and oversight of border security and emergency preparedness.
"Federal employees don't all paint with the same brush, and they don't all
vote the same way," said Klement. "They don't hold homogenous views or vote solely for the Democratic ticket. You can't lump
all 2 million together."
2 inmates shot as some 120 brawl at Calif. prison
CALIPATRIA, Calif. ÂTwo inmates
were shot and a dozen others injured as guards used pepper spray and gunfire Tuesday to break up a brawl among about 120 inmates
at a Southern California prison, authorities said. Calipatria State Prison remained
on lockdown some six hours after the violence broke out among the general prison population, spokesman Lt. Jorge
Santana said. Ten inmates were taken to outside hospitals with injuries ranging from moderate to serious, Santana said. He said all the inmates were expected to survive, but one of the
gunshot victims had to be airlifted to a hospital. Guards used pepper spray on prisoners, then fired four rounds from
a Ruger Mini-14 shotgun. Two of the rounds hit prisoners, Santana said.
No staff members were hurt. Prison officials said the facility with about 4,000 men some 120 miles northeast of San
Diego near the Salton Sea has not seen a significant disturbance
for some time. "We were just commenting on how quiet it has been," Santana said. "Something of this magnitude, it's
been a few years." He offered no details on what caused the brawl. But he said the California
Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the Office of Inspector General's Bureau of Independent Review and
the Imperial County District Attorney's Office will all investigate the
incident as required by law.
Some inmates exposed to toxic metals: IG report
(Reuters) - Some of the inmates working in a U.S. prison program to break up computer equipment for recycling were exposed
to toxic levels of lead and cadmium, according to a report by the Justice Department's inspector general released on Thursday.
The government-run company that employs prison inmates, called UNICOR, failed to set safety standards for the recycling
program dating back to 1997, and once the problems were discovered officials were slow to correct them, the report said.
"Staff and inmates at several BOP (Bureau of Prison) institutions were exposed to levels of cadmium and lead that exceeded
OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) levels," said the report by Inspector General Glenn Fine.
It took until 2003 for UNICOR to begin implementing worker protection measures to limit exposures. Despite referrals to
federal prosecutors for possible criminal charges against prison and company staff, none were brought, the report said.
"No action was initiated because of various evidentiary, legal and strategic concerns," the 200-plus page report said.
It was not until 2009 that UNICOR's recycling program complied with OSHA requirements and operated safely.
The program included breaking down computer monitors which can contain from two to five lbs of lead.
UNICOR failed initially to monitor air quality at its facilities where they broke down the monitors, and where there was
monitoring prior to 2003 worker exposures "were at times far higher" than allowed limits for cadmium and lead, the report
Most prison staff and inmates were not given the needed protective equipment such as dust masks. In some cases, respirators
were provided but were inadequate, according to the report.
The Bureau of Prisons said that its factories no longer perform glass-breaking operations and are now deemed to be operating
"While our factories no longer perform glass breaking operations, we believe that the changes already implemented in our
operations and the changes planned will ensure that all of our operations continue to operate as safely as possible," BOP
spokeswoman Traci Billingsley said.
Bureau of Prisons Unit Guilty of Pervasive Safety
Violations, U.S. Investigation Finds
Federal prison staff and inmates faced primitive and hazardous
working conditions in an electronic waste recycling program that violated more than 30 job safety requirements, according
to a long-awaited government report.
Capping a more than four-year investigation, the blistering report said recycling workers were repeatedly exposed to high
levels of cadmium and lead, both toxic metals, because of a pervasive indifference to safety by senior officials of
Federal Prison Industries, a for-profit corporation within the U.S. Bureau of Prisons that aims to teach job skills to inmates.
As FairWarning reported earlier this month,Prison Industries, also known as UNICOR, had been under investigation by the
Justice Department’s inspector general since 2006. It employs some 17,000
at more than 100 prison factories that make everything from office furniture to vehicle components — though the probe
was limited to the recycling plants it currently runs at seven U.S. prisons.
The recycling program, which launched in the mid-1990s and at its peak included 10 prison sites, takes in computers, monitors,
and other devices, refurbishing some and dismantling others to salvage electronic components, metals and glass. The devices
contain toxic metals such as arsenic, mercury, beryllium, along with cadmium and lead, and are dangerous to handle without
proper ventilation, respiratory protection and training.
The report describes a culture of disregard for safety that prevailed through the early years of the program, and that
included ignoring or concealing hazards to maintain production schedules and cut costs. For example, the report said, managers
repeatedly sought to deceive safety officials by stopping or slowing production prior to inspections, “thereby rendering
the work conditions unrepresentative of normal conditions.”
Managers also ignored information about hazards “that should have caused them to suspend, modify, or postpone”
operations “or at least to conduct further evaluation and testing,” according to the report.
This “sometimes resulted in violations of OSHA regulations and exposures of staff and inmates to toxic metals. As
a pattern, we believe this conduct evidenced willful indifference to the safety of staff and inmates, and constituted gross
As UNICOR expanded the recycling operation, new plants typically were set up without adequate planning or professional
assistance to control hazards and comply with the law, according to the report. It quoted a former warden at the federal
prison in Atwater, Calif., where recycling began in 2002, who described it as “kind of a willy-nilly, no written policy
program…They said we’re going to do this and they just [did it], by the seat of your pants.”
However, the worst violations occurred from the late 1990s until mid-2003, when UNICOR began to make safety improvements,
the report said. For the most part, the recycling plants were in compliance with occupational standards by 2009, the investigation
Moreover, the most hazardous operation, glass-breaking, was halted at all of the recycling plants in May, 2009, the report
said. Glass-breaking involves smashing cathode ray tubes, which typically contain two to five pounds of lead. It can produce
high levels of toxic dust, and at some of the plants flying glass frequently cut inmates.
In a prepared statement, the Bureau of Prisons thanked the inspector general for performing “a detailed analysis
that greatly assisted and will continue to assist our agency.”
“We are pleased that the factories were found to be currently operating safely,” the statement said. “The
continued safety of both staff and inmates alike is a top priority” for UNICOR. “As such, we are committed to
ensuring compliance with all applicable health, safety, and environmental requirements.
Along with Atwater, prison recycling plants are in operation in Fort Dix, N.J., Leavenworth, Kan., Lewisburg, Pa., Marianna,
Fla., Texarkana, Texas, and Tucson, Ariz. Recycling has been suspended at the prison in Elkton, Ohio, following extensive
cleanup of lead and cadmium residues. In 2009, UNICOR employed 860 inmate recycling workers earning from 23 cents to $1.15
The report is likely to provide ammunition for legal assaults on the Bureau of Prisons.
As FairWarning reported, the bureau faces demands by prison employees at at least two institutions for retroactive hazardous
duty pay because of working conditions in the recycling plants.
Last fall, the agency quietly paid about $1 million to settle a pay grievance by the union for employees at Elkton in eastern
Ohio, where air tests revealed cadmium levels as much as 450 times higher than federal standards. The Elkton settlement involves
back pay from 2002-2008. The union and Bureau of Prisons are still wrestling over retroactive pay for prior years.
At Atwater, arbitration over hazard pay is scheduled for December if the case isn’t settled first.
Meanwhile, lawyers for current and former employees of the prison at Marianna, Fla., have sued the Bureau of Prisons to
extract records concerning the recycling plant there. They plan to use the information in filing personal injury claims on
behalf of the workers.
Covering 223 pages of narrative and findings, plus more than 1,200 pages of related documents, the report draws on more
than 200 interviews and more than 10,000 documents, the inspector general said. The probe was triggered by a whistleblower
complaint by Leroy Smith, a safety officer who raised alarms about the lack of safety precautions at Atwater prison,
but was rebuffed by his superiors.
Smith, now a safety officer at the federal lockup in Tucson, said Thursday that despite its massive detail, he believed
the report shortchanged some key issues. He also said he was “appalled’’ that no one in a leadership position
‘’is being charged with criminal misconduct.’’
The report said that investigators had determined that 11 UNICOR and Bureau employees “committed either misconduct
or performance failures in their work related to the e-waste recycling program, some of which endangered staff and inmates.”
Some instances of potential criminal conduct were referred to the environmental crimes unit of the Justice Department and
to U.S. Attorneys in Ohio and New Jersey, the report revealed. But it said that after lengthy investigations no action was
taken due to “ evidentiary, legal, and strategic concerns.”
The inspector general reserved the most scathing criticism for Larry Novicky, general manager of Unicor’s recycling
business group from 2000 until 2009, when he was succeeded by Robert Tonetti, a former Environmental Protection Agency scientist.
Novicky could not be reached, but had complained of being a scapegoat for lapses of the recycling program, the report said.
Though no charges were filed for safety violations, the report said that information obtained during the investigation
led to convictions of three Florida men for theft of government property and other crimes related to mishandling of equipment
meant for recycling.
The report noted that the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, one of a string of federal agencies assisting
the probe, was unable to link any health problems identified by prison staff and inmates to the recycling work. However, it
said, NIOSH officials could not rule out the possibility of future effects from past cadmium and lead exposures. Nor could
they estimate the potential risk because air testing and medical surveillance had been so spotty.
The most common exposures were to lead, which can damage the kidneys and lead to high blood pressure, fatigue and depression,
and to cadmium, which can also cause kidney damage and raise the risk of cancer.
The report said the inspector general had made a dozen recommendations to improve safety oversight, and the Bureau of Prisons
had agreed to implement them.
However, suggesting that change sometimes comes slow, the report said that as of June the bureau still had a single certified
industrial hygienist to serve 115 institutions and 103 UNICOR factories.
Report: Prison recycling program posed health threat for years
An electronic waste recycling program, designed to provide inmates in federal prisons with jobs and skills,
posed a serious health threat to inmates and prison staff for several years, a new Justice Department report says.
The report, issued Thursday by the department's inspector general, says from the program's startup in the mid-1990s until
2003, staff and inmates at several prisons were exposed to toxic metals including cadmium and lead. Not until 2009 did the
program --named UNICOR -- fully institute adequate policies to protect staff and inmates from the dangerous substances.
The electronic waste program is a major recycling program at eight federal institutions. Computers, monitors, printers,
and other devices are disassembled and recycled by inmates.
The study was undertaken after complaints from prison workers in the program. The report says experts were unable to conclude
that health problems identified by staff or inmates could be linked to recycling work. However, the National Institute for
Occupational Safety and Health said it could not rule out the possibility of future medical effects resulting from past cadmium
and lead exposures.
The inspector general said the UNICOR program deserves credit for seeking to provide the federal government and the public
with recycling services.
However, the program's staff was criticized for frequently failing to share important health and safety information with
prison executives. The report found "willful violations" of regulations in some cases, and determined that 11 UNICOR and Bureau
of Prison employees committed misconduct or performance failures in their work.
The Justice Department and Bureau of Prisons agreed to take necessary actions to improve accountability, oversight and
compliance with health and safety regulations.
Several agencies -- including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, and
the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- helped with the Justice study, because of their experience in dealing with
toxic substances harmful to humans and the environment.
The Truth Behind Federal Pay
There are a number of factors that explain why it appears that the average compensation for federal government non-postal
civilian employees is higher than average compensation for private-sector employees.
The mix of occupations held by federal government civilian employees is different from that of occupations held by the
entire private-sector workforce. The private-sector workforce is in a wider range of jobs than federal
government employees -- from minimum-wage positions to highly paid CEOs.
According to studies conducted by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), jobs in the federal government civilian workforce are concentrated
in professional (e.g., lawyers, accountants, and economists), administrative, and technical occupations.
In addition, skill levels and educational attainment tend to be higher, on average, for federal government civilian employees
than for private-sector employees because of the occupational requirements in the federal government.
Over the past several years, there has been a shift in federal employment toward higher-skilled, higher-paid positions
because lower-skilled (and lower-paid) positions have been contracted out to private industries. This trend has contributed
to higher average pay for federal government civilian employees than for private-sector employees.
Today federal employees’ retirement benefits are slightly better than average private sector retirement benefits,
but only because so many private employers have withdrawn their contributions to their employee pension programs. Half
of all private employers have no retirement plan whatsoever. Federal employees’ health insurance benefits are still less generous, on
average, than those offered by large private employers and state and local governments.
The average pay gap, as measured by the Bureau of Labor statistics, is 22% with the advantage going to private
Federal employees whose salaries are about $150,000 make up only 2.8% of the federal workforce.
The top earners in the federal government are the doctors that care for our nation’s veterans, the scientists making
breakthroughs in crops that would increase the safety and reliability of the world’s food supply, and the researchers
who work find ways to defend our soldiers from IEDs and chemical warfare.
Take a look at the salaries if the top 2.8% income earners in the private
sector and you will find that there is no comparison to the income of the top 2.8% of the federal workforce.
The federal government is the largest employer in the country, and its workforce is full of people with college and advanced
If you compare what the government pays to what large companies that employ the same kind of workers – highly educated
people who are given a lot of responsibilities and who do highly specialized work, then you find that the government UNDERPAYS
on salaries, and is just about right on pensions. We’re a bit worse off when it comes to what the worker has to
pay on health care.
The Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute and Conservative members of Congress are using data that neither establishes
the case that federal employees are overpaid relative to private sector employees, nor raises any legitimate questions about
whether the U.S. Office
of Personnel Management’s calculations of the pay gap are accurate.
One data source being used is the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
The BEA itself warns not to misuse or misrepresent its data by making false comparisons between averages in the private and
One reason they cite is that BEA’s own compensation estimates include huge payments made by the government to erase
unfunded pension liabilities.
BEA says this “distorts” the comparisons, noting that in 2006, 10.7% of its figure on total federal compensation
came from payments on unfunded liabilities. These are not payments to federal retirees, these are catch-up payments
the government is making to its pension plans in order to adhere to funding requirements.
The growth of federal salaries over the last decade also reflects a period when we’ve been playing catch up.
When we started the current pay system, Labor Department data showed us
behind our private sector counterparts by about 25% on average across the
nation. Today, it is only slightly less than that – maybe about 22% on average.
Our annual pay adjustments are based on the Labor Department’s
own calculations about changes in private sector pay. The Labor Department
reports out an annual change in the ECI (Employment Cost Index) and a year later, federal employees usually get a raise that’s ECI minus
a point or so.
An apolitical analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics’ data that
compares the pay of those in the private sector and state and local governments
to federal employees on a job-by-job, and city-by-city basis finds that federal employees are underpaid by an average of about
22% nationwide. Of course, there are variations in the size of this gap, e.g. federal employees in New York City suffer
a bigger pay gap than those in those in Wyoming or Mississippi. But
the basic fact that federal salaries are lower than private sector salaries is irrefutable.
Federal employees have an enormous amount of important work to do, caring for our nation’s veterans, policing the
borders, protecting citizens from violent criminals in federal prisons, getting Social Security checks in the
mail, re-regulating the financial system, restoring environmental standards, and ensuring the safety of our food, water,
air, housing, and transportation systems.
There’s no mystery to federal pay. It’s all out in the open, and it’s all based exactly on movement
in private sector pay.
The percentage of private sector workers with pension plans is just
about 50% and has been declining slightly ever since the 1970’s.
When you compare pension benefits between the federal and private sectors on average, you’re including the half of all private workers
who get absolutely nothing from their employers in the way of pensions. On the basis of such a skewed comparison, of
course federal pensions look good.
The numbers look very different when you do an apples to apples comparison. What would apples to apples look like?
Unfortunately for millions of Americans, private sector employers have
abandoned subsidized benefits in droves over the last two decades, as the pressures of global competition and free trade have
caused a worldwide race to the bottom on labor costs.
What is the bigger outrage -- that employees of the government of the richest nation on earth receive help paying for
retirement benefits, or that less than half of private sector workers do? That federal employees get a modest subsidy
toward the cost of health insurance, or that only 60% of private sector workers do?
Thirty years ago, private sector workers had higher subsidies for health insurance and more generous pensions than federal
In the post-NAFTA America, where well-compensated jobs go either overseas or to non-union havens, and where American workers
are effectively prohibited from forming unions in order to bargain collectively, employer-subsidized healthcare and pensions
like those federal employees still have – benefits that once were inferior to those enjoyed by their private sector
counterparts -- have become increasingly rare.
Douglas factors: Be sure to consider employee's
· Employees lacking remorse may have low rehabilitative
potential · Prior misconduct should be considered · Deciding official's questionable credibility may validate AJ's determination
Douglas factors: Be sure to consider employee's rehabilitative potential
Anjali Patel, Esq., cyber FEDS® Staff Writer
ANALYSIS: When determining an appropriate penalty for an employee's
misconduct, agencies must consider the employee's potential for rehabilitation as part of the Douglas factors analysis. Douglas
v. Veterans Administration, 106 LRP 16523 , 5 MSPR 280 (MSPB 1981).
To determine rehabilitative potential, case law
shows that agencies should evaluate whether the employee expressed remorse for the misconduct, exhibited a pattern of behavior,
and his response to prior disciplinary attempts.
Here are some key principles from recent cases to keep in mind:
An employee who does not acknowledge wrongdoing or express any remorse generally does not have the potential for rehabilitation.
Social Security Administration v. Long, 110 LRP 6294 , 113 MSPR 190 (MSPB 01/27/10); Ward v. U.S. Postal Service, 109 LRP
54881 , 112 MSPR 239 (MSPB 08/31/09); Bogumill v. Department of Veterans Affairs, 110 LRP 55487 (MSPB AJ 03/31/10); and
Moseley v. Department of Justice, 109 LRP 62263 (MSPB AJ 08/11/09). In contrast, the MSPB decided the employees in Lee had
rehabilitative potential because they were strong performers and valued workers without prior discipline. Special Counsel
v. Lee, 110 LRP 28583 , 114 MSPR 57 (MSPB 05/14/10).
· A pattern of behavior or failure to respond to prior disciplinary
attempts may outweigh an employee's admission to wrongdoing and remorse, especially if the remorse is shown only after disciplinary
action. In Zayas v. Department of Veterans Affairs, 110 LRP 3177 (MSPB AJ 10/06/09), an administrative judge found that an
employee lacked rehabilitative potential, even though he showed remorse and apologized, because he continued to violate the
agency's limited-use computer policy after receiving training in proper usage. Similarly, in Long v. Department of Treasury,
109 LRP 60720 (MSPB AJ 08/04/09), the employee expressed regret for failing to use the money deposited by the agency into
his bank account to pay for official charges on his agency credit card, as required by agency policy. However, he also criticized
the requirements he violated, made excuses for his actions, and was previously suspended for the same type of violation.
· Prior discipline does not include proposed actions that are withdrawn or never realized, and cannot be the basis
for finding the employee cannot be rehabilitated. Tryon v. U.S. Postal Service, 108 LRP 9894 , 108 MSPR 148 (MSPB 02/20/08).
· The nature and seriousness of the misconduct may indicate an employee's lack of rehabilitative potential. In Social
Security Administration v. Long, 110 LRP 6294 , 113 MSPR 190 (MSPB 01/27/10), the board sustained the removal of an administrative
law judge for domestic violence charges. The ALJ's long federal service without prior discipline did not outweigh "the nature
and seriousness of the respondent's violent conduct and its adverse impact on his agency, as well as the absence of provocation
and his lack of remorse." In Grossman v. Department of the Air Force, a command post manager violated agency policy when he
misused government equipment to support his law practice and provide free legal services to his immediate supervisor. The
administrative judge found that the nature and seriousness of the misconduct casted "significant doubt on the appellant's
potential for rehabilitation," even though the employee's work performance, lack of prior discipline, and length of service
supported mitigation. 110 LRP 36535 (MSPB AJ 01/12/10).
The MSPB also recently
addressed whether an AJ has to defer to the deciding official's assessment of the evidence presented for a particular Douglas
In Woebcke v. Department of Homeland Security, 110 LRP 26911 (MSPB 05/06/10), the board found that an AJ may
make an independent assessment of an employee's potential for rehabilitation when making a negative credibility determination
based on the deciding official's testimony. The AJ concluded that the "deciding official's own conduct belied his testimony"
when he showed confidence in the employee's rehabilitative potential by authorizing additional training based on the belief
the employee would return to work after a short suspension.
EEOC faults BOP for not stopping dangerous harassment
CASE FILE: Mercedes v.
Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Prisons, 110 LRP 58666 (EEOC OFO 09/17/10).
Ruling: A correctional officer
with the Federal Bureau of Prisons was subjected to harassment on the bases of his race and national origin when a coworker
made comments that undermined his authority with inmates. The agency could not avoid liability because it failed to take immediate
and appropriate action to stop the potentially dangerous harassment.
What it means: Whether a coworker's comments
and conduct rise to the level of creating a hostile work environment may depend somewhat on the working conditions at the
site where the challenged conduct takes place.
Summary: The complainant, a senior correctional officer at a Federal
Bureau of Prisons medical center, alleged he was subjected to harassment by a coworker because of his sex, race (black), and
national origin (Hispanic). Briefly, the coworker embarrassed the complainant in front of inmates and other correctional officers
with inappropriate greetings such as "Hi, sexy" and "Hey, handsome." The complainant claimed this was potentially dangerous
for him because it undermined his authority in front of inmates. On one occasion, the coworker rang the doorbell of the complainant's
unit incessantly. When the complainant later contacted him by radio to discuss the incident, the coworker essentially challenged
him to a fight. The agency found no discrimination. The EEOC reversed on appeal. It found the conduct at issue might not normally
be considered harassment, but that undermining respect for the complainant's authority in his serious line of work was sufficiently
severe to create a hostile work environment.
The EEOC further found evidence that the coworker "targeted minority
officers for his abuse," which included excessive ringing of doorbells and inappropriate comments. The EEOC concluded that
the agency could not avoid liability for the harassment because it was aware of the coworker's misconduct and its potential
for creating hazardous working conditions, but failed to take immediate and appropriate action to stop it.
remanded the case, in part directing the agency to address the issue of compensatory damages.
In 2009, the correctional
officers and staff at USP Lewisburg were given an almost impossible mission — to house the worst of the worst
inmates in the federal penitentiary system.
These are inmates who have shown, through their actions, that they
are unable to control their behavior.
The federal prison system’s
answer is to simply give them harsher punishments: lock them down in a tiny two-man cell for 23 hours a day with one hour
of recreation in an enclosed cage.
These are conditions that would drive anyone crazy, let alone someone who has a
history of behavioral problems and, often, violence.
These are also conditions that have been proven, time and
time again, to not only be ineffective at controlling inmates’ behavior, but to also cause psychological damage.
they continue to be used to over and over again as the solution to dealing with disruptive inmates.
These are also
conditions that put correctional officers at extreme risk every day they enter the institution.
The men and
women that I have met who work at Lewisburg are professional, caring and are doing their best with the mission they were given
to run a safe and secure facility.
Conditions at USP Lewisburg must be changed, but we must also change the conditions
that have led to over 210,000 inmates incarcerated in our federal prisons and over 1.4 million incarcerated in our state prisons.
Our country’s solution to crime over
the past 30 years has been to simply lock people up and throw away the key, resulting in overcrowded
prisons, inadequate staffing and violence.
Until we, as a society, become more supportive of alternatives to
incarceration, we will continue to have violent conditions in our prisons, such as what we are seeing in Lewisburg and other
facilities around the country.
Inmate stabs 2 guards
By Francis Scarcella
LEWISBURG - Two guards were stabbed, one of them in the abdomen,
by an inmate during a routine inspection of a cell Friday at the U.S. Federal Penitentiary at Lewisburg.
injuries were reported to be non-life threatening, according to prison spokesman Andrew Ciollo, the attack comes on the
heels of reported security concerns at penitentiary.
The assault took place around 9:30 a.m. after the guards searching
cells, Ciollo said. As guards were trying to handcuff the inmate through a slot in the door, the prisoner used a shank to
attack them. The guards, who have not been identified, were treated at Evangelical
Community Hospital, Lewisburg, for slash wounds to their hands. One suffered a penetration
wound to the abdomen.
Friday’s attack comes fewer than two weeks after the Lewisburg Prison Project and the correctional
officers union raised concerns about security at the penitentiary. Advocates described how similar attacks at the penitentiary
in recent months have occurred during the same process - as inmates are unshackled.
The Lewisburg Prison Project -
a staff and inmate advocacy group - said three inmates have been killed and at least one correctional
officer was seriously injured in the past year.
Board member Angela Trop said one inmate who wrote the group
summed up his fear succinctly: “A single cell would be cheaper than what they’ve spent in hospital bills and funerals.”
insists the facility is safe and reiterated those remarks Friday.
“It’s prison,” Ciollo said.
“Incidents do occur and unfortunately this is one of those times.”
Trop disagrees with Ciollo and blames
rising violence on inadequate staffing, policies and procedures to maintain the special management unit that houses about
1,000 inmates who posed behavioral problems at other federal prisons across the country and need to be held in a more restricted environment.
inmates in the special unit at Lewisburg are considered the worst in the federal system, they are still held in two-man cells
for 23 hours a day without television and may not refuse a cell mate.
The inmate who carried out Friday’s attack
was housed alone.
“There is no reason to why he was alone,” Ciollo said. “It was just by chance
that he was celled alone.”
The FBI is investigating Friday’s
stabbing. Calls seeking comment on the number of active investigations focused on violence at the penitentiary were not returned
Prison Workers Demand Pay for Hazardous Exposures as Long-Running Dispute Turns Toxic
A government-owned company that runs electronics recycling plants at federal prisons from New Jersey to California is coming
under intensified scrutiny for repeatedly exposing prison employees and inmate laborers to excessive levels of lead and other
The Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General is expected within days to release its report on a years-long
investigation of the recycling operations — including accusations that prison officials ignored basic workplace safety
Separately, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons has quietly paid about $1 million to settle a grievance over hazardous duty pay
for employees of an Elkton, Ohio, prison with one of the recycling plants. On one occasion, an air test at the eastern Ohio
institution found cadmium levels 450 times higher than federal safety limits.
And a union for employees at the federal lockup in the central California community of Atwater also is demanding retroactive
hazardous duty pay. Barring a settlement, that case is scheduled for arbitration in December.
On another front, lawyers preparing health claims for employees of the prison at Marianna, Fla., last week sued the Bureau
of Prisons, claiming it has illegally withheld records about the recycling operation there, including by blaming a loss of
documents on Hurricane Ivan.
“They’re trying to keep a very tight lid on this for as long as they can,” said Katherine Viker, one
of the lawyers. “This is embarrassing for them.’’ Bureau officials declined comment.
At issue is the conduct of Federal Prison Industries, a for-profit, government-owned corporation established in the 1930s
to provide constructive activity and job skills to inmates. The company, which goes by the trade name Unicor, employs thousands
of inmates in a variety of businesses, including recycling factories at eight institutions: Ft. Dix, N.J., Leavenworth, Kan.,
Lewisburg, Pa., Marianna, Fla., Texarkana, Texas, and Tucson, Ariz., in addition to Elkton and Atwater. In 2009, the recycling
business employed 860 inmates earning from 23 cents to $1.15 an hour, according to Unicor’s annual report. Sales from
recycling operations last year were about $9.2 million.
It could not immediately be determined if any claims have been filed on behalf of inmates.
The settlement with Elkton employees was reached last October, according to people who described it to FairWarning. Union
officials would not provide a copy, saying the agreement is sealed. The Bureau of Prisons would not confirm the settlement,
discuss the pending case at Atwater, or say if similar negotiations are underway at other institutions with recycling plants.
“It would be inappropriate to comment in regards to allegations about this program that may have been raised by recent
litigation and/or union grievances,’’ the bureau said in a statement to FairWarning. “These matters are
pending and/or confidential.”
The recycling plants take in computers and TVs, sorting out those that can be refurbished or sold. The rest are dismantled
to salvage electronic components, metals and glass. Until recently, some of the plants routinely smashed thousands of cathode
ray tubes from computer monitors and TVs — a potential source of hazardous dust because the tubes contain cadmium and
up to several pounds of lead.
Lead exposure can cause a range of health effects, including harm to the kidneys, cardiovascular and nervous systems. Cadmium
can also cause kidney and neurological damage and is a human carcinogen. According to documents and interviews, some of the
recycling plants operated for years without adequate ventilation and dust controls, protective gear or hygiene measures —
such as change rooms to keep workers from wearing contaminated clothing to their homes or cells.
“They didn’t put the safeguards in place to do it the right way,” said Bill Meek, an Elkton employee
and vice president of local 607 of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents Elkton workers.
In recent years, the bureau has taken steps to upgrade safety. It has spent about $800,000 for decontamination work at
Elkton, where the recycling plant remains idle since closing down for the cleanup in 2008.
Officials say that in May they halted glass-breaking — the smashing of cathode ray tubes. The move was prompted by
financial rather than safety considerations, they said.
“We are confident that our current recycling operations are safe,” Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman Traci Billingsley
said in a written statement.
Though some employees say they have suffered serious illnesses, it’s uncertain if any recycling-related ailment has
ever been confirmed by medical diagnosis. After visits to four of the sites, investigators from the National Institute
for Occupational Safety and Health reported last December that they had “documented no health problems that could be
linked to recycling work .”
However, illnesses from toxic exposures sometimes take years to develop, experts say. And according to a string of government
reports, it is impossible to know the extent of staff and inmate exposures at some of the sites because records for the early
years are sketchy or non-existent.
“The program was developed…into a prison industry ‘on the fly’ without any research into potential
hazards, health or safety matters, training or discussions of hazardous waste handling,” according to an affidavit by
Joe McNeal, a former employee who in 1994 helped set up the first of the recycling plants at Marianna.
The first stirrings of trouble came when Leroy Smith, a safety officer at Atwater, questioned whether adequate safeguards
would be in place at a new recycling plant there. Several institutions, including Marianna, Elkton and Texarkana, already
had recycling factories. Smith wanted his superiors to order a hazard assessment before opening the Atwater plant, but as
later noted in a Bureau of Prisons report he was rebuffed.
Atwater began recycling in April, 2002. Records show that from June through November, a series of air tests found lead
and cadmium above limits set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. An air test the following February revealed
excessive levels of beryllium, a toxic metal used in computers.
“It was a trial and error” operation, recalled Phil Rodriguez, a former Atwater safety officer now working
for the Bureau of Prisons in Washington state. Along with ‘’metal and dust and everything flying in the air,”
Rodriguez told FairWarning he saw inmates getting “massive cuts’’ from breaking cathode ray tubes without
goggles or face shields.
For his part, Smith filed a whistleblower complaint in 2004, saying his recommendations had fallen on deaf ears and that
he had suffered harassment and intimidation for trying to protect inmates and staff. His complaint was settled with
his transfer from Atwater to the federal prison in Tucson.
In 2006, he was honored with the annual “Public Servant Award” of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, an independent
investigative agency that examines whistleblower cases.
By then, the dispute had taken on a life of its own. The Office of Inspector General had opened its investigation, enlisting
NIOSH and the Federal Occupational Health Service to review records and assess conditions at several recycling sites.
“Electronics recycling at…Texarkana appears to have been performed from late 2001 until May 2004 without appropriate
engineering controls, respiratory protection, medical surveillance, or industrial hygiene monitoring,” said one of the
reports. Therefore, “we cannot determine the extent of exposure to lead and cadmium that occurred during that time.”
The picture that emerged of Elkton was more damning.
There, too, recycling had been done from 1997 until May 2003 without proper safeguards or air monitoring, NIOSH said.
However, air tests in May 2003 revealed cadmium above permissible levels. In 2005,Unicor launched a program to recover
computer chips without taking steps to control the temperature of lead solder. “Staff described a visible haze…and
expressed concern about exposure to lead fume from this operation,’’ NIOSH said. “Descriptions of work tasks
from staff…indicate that exposure to lead during this process did occur.’’
Also in 2005, OSHA inspectors took air samples and cited the plant for serious violations of the cadmium standard.
Chris Carusso, a former Elkton employee, told FairWarning that supervisors usually knew when inspectors were coming in,
and ordered staff to shut down operations and do a thorough cleaning.
“When I first started, I used to do it and then I kind of got hip to what was going on,” Carusso said. “I’d
tell the inmates, ‘Don’t do anything special.’ ”
In February, 2007, during a monthly cleaning of ventilation filters in a glass-breaking area, NIOSH investigators found
that cadmium levels were 450 times, and lead levels 50 times, above OSHA limits. The reason, according to their report, was
that instead of using a wet process to hold down dust, workers cleaned the filters by “vacuuming, shaking, or banging
on the floor to shake dust out.”
The Elkton settlement does not involve claims of health damage but the narrow issue of hazardous duty pay. Federal regulations
provide for a wage boost of up to 25 percent for government employees whose work involves unusual hardship or environmental
danger. The union filed a grievance, saying the NIOSH findings showed that Elkton staff were entitled to hazard pay for time
spent working in and around the recycling complex.
The agreement covers back pay for the years 2002 to 2008, and provides a maximum of about $50,000 to a few workers with
the highest potential exposures.
Coffman Introduces Federal Furlough Bill to
Save Taxpayers $5.5 Billion
(WASHINGTON) — Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) this week introduced a bill that would subject federal civilian employees to a
two week furlough in 2011 and reduce salaries of members of Congress by 10 percent saving taxpayers
more than $5.5 billion. The bill, H.R. 6134, is a one year measure to reduce federal spending and combat the unsustainable
Introducing his bill, Coffman remarked, “Currently, at least 24 states, and nearly three quarters
of a million workers, are undertaking a budget-cutting maneuver that I believe we should institute at the federal level: short
term employee furloughs. These states, across the nation, along with city and county government counterparts, recognize
that occasional worker furloughs are necessary to cut budgets and hold down spending. It also has the benefit of ensuring
that federal workers are not sheltered from the realities of life in today’s economy.”
“One of the most unpleasant adjustments a former small businessman or former state legislator - and I am both - faces in
coming to Washington is the unlimited ability of the federal government to deficit spend. Furlough Fridays are becoming a common occurrence for state
and local governments. They present slight problems but they provide large solutions to the budget troubles we face.
I believe that managed appropriately, with due allowance for vital and national
security implications, as specified in this bill, they can do the same for the federal government.”
“The federal government continues to grow, and continues to rack up debt. I would like
to make the U.S. government as cost conscious as the states. My legislation is a start,” Coffman concluded.
Coffman’s bill, H.R. 6134, will make federal civilian employees subject to a non-consecutive
two week furlough in 2011, correspondingly reduce appropriations for salaries and expenses for offices of the legislative branch, and provide a 10 percent
reduction in pay for members of Congress. An exception is provided
for national security or reasons relating to public health or safety, including law enforcement. Coffman’s bill
will save the federal government over $5.5 billion.
Prison Watch: Standish group hopes to rid community of prison rumors
STANDISH — Standish community leaders want to calm the rumor mills when it comes to talking about the state selling
Standish Maximum Security Prison to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
"We've heard from people that it's going to be a no-man zone around the prison, that they we're going to reroute M-61,
but none of that is true," said City Manager Michael Moran. "We want to make sure that if people have heard any rumors, that
they contact us and we can help determine what's true and what isn't."
Last month, a group called Prison Watch was formed, that includes Moran; Curt Hillman of the Standish Downtown Development
Authority, Arenac County District 3 Commissioner Michael Snyder; Lincoln Township Supervisor David Hertzburg; Mayor Mark Winslow;
and Renee Reetz, Marvin Ittner and Ruth Coldwell of the Standish Chamber of Commerce.
In the beginning of August, Gov. Jennifer Granholm and U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Menominee, requested that the Federal
Bureau of Prisons reopen the Standish prison.
That came seven months after federal officials decided not to use the prison to hold Guantanamo Bay detainees.
The group plans to meet at 7:30 a.m., Sept. 28, at the Pine River Golf Club in Standish, 2244 Pine River. The group first
met Aug. 20, according to the Arenac County Independent.
Moran said the group plans to setup an information hotline that will allow residents to call in rumors or questions.
"I'll let them know if it's just a rumor, and if I don't know, I'll find out," he said.
Currently, property owners near the prison are waiting for the U.S. Department of Jusice Federal Bureau of Prisons Capacity
Planning and Site Selection committee to begin an environmental impact study, which Moran said could start by year's end and
take anywhere from five to 12 months total.
Property owners will be given a 48-hours notice before federal officials would visit and are being asked to be present
for the impact study, said Moran.
In the meantime, Moran said public hearings by the Federal BOP are also in the works.
Federal official: Standish Max and Illinois prison both in running for feds to purchase
STANDISH — Standish Maximum Security Prison is still in the running to
become a federal facility, but a familiar foe in Illinois may have the competition locked up.
Federal officials recently completed a required environmental impact study
on the facility that beat out Standish prison last year to hold Guantanamo Bay terror detainees. Once a 30-day public comment
period ends Oct. 1, federal officials could make an offer to purchase Thomson Correctional Center, a 1,600-cell prison located
in northwestern Illinois. The BOP published the study last month.
But that doesn’t mean Standish is out of the question, according to Richard
Cohn, spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
After federal officials toured Standish last month, they said
they would do the same environmental impact study and expected its completion in 12-18 months.
“It’s not a secret what facilities the bureau is looking at,”
said Cohn. “They are equally as interested in Standish. That’s why we are going to complete the environmental
impact study, there.”
Standish City Manager Michael Moran said the federal officials have kept the
community aware that they are looking at all options.
“They have been very up front about looking at other prisons,”
said Moran, who started a group last month called Prison Watch that aims to better inform the public
about prison updates. “At least we’re still talking about it.”
Thomson Correctional Center is located just north of Thomson, Ill., near the
Mississippi River about 150 miles from Chicago.
The village of Thomson is along Illinois Route 84 and has a population of about
559 according to the 2000 census. The town is known for its watermelons and has the nickname “Melon Capital
of the World.”
Its prison has an area of about 146 acres and comprises 15 buildings, according
to the Illinois Department of Corrections website.
The facility has eight cell-houses and an additional minimum-security unit
with 200 beds, compared to Standish’s five 88-bed units and one 164-bed unit — which allows for a capacity of
Thomson Correctional Facility is not a new name to the people of Standish.
Late last year, the Illinois facility beat out Standish to hold Guantanamo Bay detainees. Recent legislation,
however, prohibits those detainees from being held on U.S. soil, opening the doors to hold federal prisoners.
President Barack Obama has already secured $170 million in funding in the 2011
budget for the Illinois prison. That funding is about $50 million short of what the state of Illinois appraised the facility
at in August, according to published reports by the Clinton Herald, an Iowa newspaper.
The Illinois prison has seen minimal use since being built in 2001. State budget
constraints kept the prison closed from 2001-2008. As of 2009, only the minimum-security section houses prisoners.
Standish Maximum Correctional Facility opened in 1990 and operated until it
closed Oct. 31, 2009.
Both prisons could be considered for acquisition due to high-security federal
prisons being overly crowded by 53 percent, said Cohn.
“There’s several ways we go about trying to reduce our rates of
crowding — acquisitions of facilities is one way of doing that, or constructing new facilities,” said Cohn. “Without
adequate funding available, acquisitions of existing facilities seems to be the best option.”
Along with results from the environmental impact study, community support becomes
“extremely” important, said Cohn.
“You have to understand that we are going to transfer our people there,”
he said, “and try to hire people in the local area. It would be hard without the support. The staff needs to be accepted
in the community.”
Not everybody in Standish is onboard with the possible transformation of the
state prison into a federal prison. When federal officials came to Standish last month, a few people, most former Standish
corrections officers, protested the possible purchase.
Michigan Department of Corrections Spokesman Russ Marlan said without community
support, the Standish prison could remain closed.
“If there’s no support, they are going to go somewhere else,”
he said. “It plays a significant role.”
Bureau of Prisons not notifying victims
about medical furloughs
Federal prisons are failing
to notify crime victims and witnesses when inmates are granted furloughs for medical treatment, a report by the Justice Department's inspector general says.
The Bureau of Prisons also has no system for tracking data about inmates who commit crimes while they are
on temporary release or when they escape while on release, among other recordkeeping problems that are preventing the government
from ensuring that leaves are properly granted and overseen.
The bureau, which had 208,745 people who had committed federal crimes incarcerated
at the end of the past fiscal year, proposed a revised furlough policy in 2003 to address medical leaves, limit furloughs
for inmates convicted of drug use and possession, and other issues. But after seven years, the changes still have not been
negotiated with the union representing guards and other prison employees, the report says.
Under a labor agreement with the National Council of Prison Locals, part
of the American Federation of Government Employees, new policies that affect the work conditions of prison employees must be negotiated. Management
and union officials meet for three days each month to take up these issues in the order in which they arise. About 50 other
matters are awaiting negotiation, Bureau of Prisons officials told auditors for the inspector general. And the bureau said
it may not be able to make the changes until 2017.
"We will make every effort to negotiate the furlough policy with the union
to implement the required changes," prisons officials told auditors, according to the report. "This will be completed by Dec.
That time frame "is excessive and unacceptable," says the report, released
this month by Inspector General Glenn A. Fine.
It was unclear why such a long delay is possible. Traci Billingsley, a bureau
spokeswoman, declined to comment.
"The lengthy delay undermines the [bureau's] ability to implement necessary
changes in practices, some of which can affect the safety and security of [bureau] institutions or affect victims' rights,"
the report said.
Bryan Lowry, the union president, said the union would be happy to discuss
a new notification policy for victims and witnesses and other changes that prison officials have requested, such as a required
urine test for inmates returning from furloughs to determine whether they have used drugs.
"But they've never brought it to our attention to move it up" in the line,
Lowry said. "Probably some of these issues need to be dealt with, but there's a manipulating on the agency's part going on.
. . . They never brought up the specifics of wanting to move this to the front burner." The prison staff is working under
a contract that expired in 2001, he said.
From 2007 to 2009, federal prisons granted 162,655 unescorted furloughs
to about 90,000 inmates. The inspector general did not know how many furloughs were given for medical treatment.
Most were "transfer furloughs," used when inmates are moved to a halfway
house. About a third were "non-transfer" furloughs, given for a day or an overnight trip so a prisoner can receive medical
treatment, attend a funeral, visit a dying relative, appear in court, or participate in educational, religious, social or
civic functions. The privilege is given only to prisoners who are not considered dangerous.
Prison officials agreed with the report's findings that poor recordkeeping,
done mostly by hand on paper, is hampering the bureau's ability to spot trends and to readily access data about the furlough
The bureau does not regularly review furlough data and does not know whether
inmate records that appear to show an escape or an improper furlough were the result of an error in recording or an improper
The bureau pledged to transfer more records to
Escaped prisoner defeated electric fence
STERLING - An inmate who escaped from one of the most secure prisons in the state bypassed a lethal electric fence surrounding
the prison by grounding himself and going under the fence, 9Wants to Know has learned.
We had the stun-lethal fence and there wasn't an expectation that something like this could ever happen," Department
of Corrections head Ari Zavaras told 9Wants to Know.
Douglas Alward escaped from the Sterling Correctional Facility on Aug. 22 and was found near a cornfield in Yuma County
three days later after taking a woman hostage.
Alward, who escaped from state prisons twice before and a county courthouse once, was serving a 20- to 40-year prison sentence
for convictions of attempted murder, assault, burglary and kidnapping.
"We thought we had in place all of the systems that made [an escape] very difficult," Zavaras said.
Alward came to the prison as a maximum security inmate but with good behavior worked his way to the minimum
restricted level, the second lowest inmate level.
The Sterling Correctional Facility has three fences between the prison and the outside world.
Alward used a home made ladder created from copper that he got inside the prison to get over the razor wire on top of the
fence closest to the prison.
"He was able to scale that," Zavaras said.
Yards from the first fence is a "stun-lethal" electric fence designed to stun an inmate when touched the first time.
The fence then goes into lethal mode and charges with enough electricity to instantly kill anything that touches it a second
"The electric fence was operational but this individual devised a way to defeat that," Zavaras said.
"He found a way to ground himself," Zavaras said. "I don't want to go into particulars for obvious reasons."
9Wants to Know has learned Alward went under the electric fence and then over the final fence.
That fence is meant to prevent anyone outside the prison from reaching the electric fence, Zavaras said.
Alward is the first inmate in state history to defeat the deadly electric fence.
Zavaras says he is committed to making sure Alward is the last.
"What I've found in situations like this is that it is never just one thing. There are a lot of factors I think that can
contribute to it," he said.
The prison has already made changes to the electric fence to prevent someone else from escaping the same way Alward did.
Zavaras says he's confident no prison staff member assisted Alward and has contracted with an outside company to review
prison security and procedures.
"The day after the escape, we started making some immediate changes. We knew to correct a couple of things when we learned
how the escape happened," Zavaras said, as he pledged to do everything he can to make sure no one else escapes.
"Are we going to make it more difficult for anybody who would want to try this in the future? You bet we are, and I'm confident
we are," he said.
13th Judicial District Attorney Bob Watson says he plans to file charges against Alward next week.
Alward will likely spend the rest of his life behind bars. He's currently being held at the Colorado State Penitentiary
in Cañon City, Colorado.
DOC Spokeswoman Katherine Sanguinetti says Alward was scheduled to have a parole hearing in October. If he
had received parole, he would have likely gone to a federal prison to serve a federal sentence for kidnapping.
She says he had been "following the rules."
His prison record dates back to 1979.
Labor Day and the Pullman Strike of 1894
Day, observed on the first Monday in September in the United States, is considered by many to mark the end of summer.
Although it is ostensibly meant to celebrate the civic and economic contributions of American workers, it is also connected
historically to workers' repression and political appeasement.
Exactly who first came up with the idea of Labor Day is unclear, but two stories are at the front of the running:
In the first story, Peter McGuire, cofounder of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and general secretary of the Brotherhood
of Carpenters and Joiners, first suggesting a Labor Day holiday to honor those whose sweat and toil created the country's
In the second story, the holiday was conceived by machinist
Matthew Maguire in 1882, while he served as secretary of the Central Labor Union of New York. Documents show that the Centeral Labor Union
adopted a Labor Day proposal and created a planning committee for a demonstration and picnic.
Regardless of whose idea it was, the first Labor Day was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City; the
second was celebrated exactly a year later. In 1884, the first Monday in September was chosen as the holiday, and the Central
Labor Union urged other labor organizations to begin observing the holiday. Support for a national Labor
Day celebration grew.
Meanwhile, near Chicago, George
Pullman founded Pullman, Illinois, in 1880, to house the employees of his railroad sleeping car
manufacturing company. The entire town was designed and built to house the Pullman Company's employees.
All was well with the Pullman
Company until an economic depression swept the country in 1893. In response to a falling demand for sleeper cars, Pullman began lowering wages, but rental costs in Pullman, IL, (which were controlled
by and automatically paid to the Pullman Company) remained unchanged. Facing plummeting take-home pay, Pullman employees began
walking off the job.
Eugene V. Debs and the American
Railway Union (ARU) picked up the cause, and pretty soon, railroad workers across the United States were boycotting
trains that carried Pullman cars.
President Grover Cleveland, citing the now delayed mail system, declared
the strike illegal and sent 12,000 troops to break it. Two men were killed in the violence that erupted near Chicago. Debs
was sent to prison, and the ARU was disbanded, and Pullman employees henceforth were required to sign a pledge that they would
never again unionize.
Sensing the political unease caused by his anti-labor stance during the Pullman strike, President Cleveland put reconciliation
with labor forces at the top of his to-do list. Labor Day legislation was
rushed through Congress and passed unanimously on June 28, 1894, just six days after the end of the Pullman strike.
U.S. Fails to Notify Victims About Prison Furloughs
WASHINGTON — The federal Bureau of Prisons has long recognized a potential problem with its handling of furloughs
of inmates for medical treatment: nobody has the job of notifying crime victims and witnesses that an inmate is being temporarily
In 2003, the bureau drafted a proposed policy that would require officials to provide such notice.
Yet seven years later, the bureau has yet to carry out the policy. And the agency now says it may not be able to fix the
problem until 2017 — a time frame called “excessive and unacceptable” in a new report by the Justice Department’s
inspector general, Glenn A. Fine.
“There has been excessive delay in implementing the B.O.P.’s revised furlough policy, which affects victims’
rights and hinders the B.O.P. from addressing weaknesses in the furlough program,” Mr. Fine said in a statement. “It
is critical that the B.O.P. implement a revised furlough policy in a more timely manner.”
The report did not identify any instances in which a federal inmate on a medical furlough had harassed victims or witnesses.
But it presented the potential for that as obvious.
Bureau of Prison officials told Mr. Fine’s office that they agreed the furlough procedures needed an overhaul. But
they said they could not fix the policy quickly because of a contract with the labor union that represents guards and other
Under a collective bargaining agreement with the National Council of Prison Locals, a part of the American Federation of
Government Employees, any policy changes at the agency that could have an effect on conditions of employment must be negotiated.
Agency and union officials meet for three days each month to discuss such issues, one at a time and usually in the order in
which they were proposed.
While the bureau sent the draft furlough policy to the union in 2003, it has still not been discussed. There are about
50 pending policy matters awaiting negotiation, Mr. Fine’s report said. Although it was not clear where in the line
the furlough policy is, it is not likely to get to the front for “a very long time,” agency officials told Mr.
“We will make every effort to negotiate the furlough policy with the union to implement the required changes,”
the Bureau of Prisons told the inspector general’s auditors. “This will be completed by Dec. 17, 2017.”
Bryan Lowry, the union’s president, said he rejected any effort to “point the finger at the union.” He
acknowledged that the union would want to discuss the additional work that a notification policy would entail, but said that
it had no objections to taking care of such a “serious issue” ahead of other policy proposals.
“They could have moved this to the front of the line, but they never requested it,” Mr. Lowry said, adding
that the union has never objected to a request to deal quickly with a high-priority issue. “We would have moved that
straight to the top and tried to negotiate that and get it out as soon as possible.”
The Bureau of Prisons’ press office did not respond to requests for comment.
The inspector general’s report said that from 2007 to 2009, federal prisons granted “nontransfer” furloughs
— those in which an inmate left and then returned to the same prison — to about 2,000 inmates a year, representing
less than 1 percent of the federal prison population.
Reasons for furloughs included receiving medical treatment, visiting dying relatives, attending funerals, appearing in
court and participating “in educational, religious, or work-related functions.” Only inmates who meet certain
security standards are eligible for temporary release.
Prison Without Walls
Incarceration in America is a failure by almost any measure. But what if the prisons could be turned inside out, with
convicts released into society under constant electronic surveillance? Radical though it may seem, early experiments
suggest that such a science-fiction scenario might cut crime, reduce costs, and even prove more just.
One snowy night last winter, I walked into a pizzeria in Morrisville,
Pennsylvania, with my right pant leg hiked up my shin. A pager-size black box was strapped to my sockless ankle, and another,
somewhat larger unit dangled in a holster on my belt. Together, the two items make up a tracking device called the BI ExacuTrack AT: the former is designed to be tamper-resistant, and the latter broadcasts the wearer’s
location to a monitoring company via GPS. The device is commonly associated with paroled sex offenders, who wear it so authorities
can keep an eye on their movements. Thus my experiment: an online guide had specified that the restaurant I was visiting was
a “family” joint. Would the moms and dads, confronted with my anklet, identify me as a possible predator and hustle
their kids back out into the cold?
Well, no, not in this case. Not a soul took any notice of the gizmos I wore. The whole rig is surprisingly small and unobtrusive,
and it allowed me to eat my slice in peace. Indeed, over the few days that I posed as a monitored man, the closest I came
to feeling a real stigma was an encounter I had at a Holiday Inn ice machine, where a bearded trucker type gave me a wider
berth than I might otherwise have expected. All in all, it didn’t seem like such a terrible fate.
Unlike most of ExacuTrack’s clientele, of course, I wore my device by choice and only briefly, to find out how it
felt and how people reacted to it. By contrast, a real sex offender—or any of a variety of other lawbreakers, including
killers, check bouncers, thieves, and drug users—might wear the unit or one like it for years, or even decades. He (and
the offender is generally a “he”) would wear it all day and all night, into the shower and under the sheets—perhaps
with an AC adapter cord snaking out into a wall socket for charging. The device would enable the monitoring company to follow
his every move, from home to work to the store, and, in consultation with a parole or probation officer, to keep him away from kindergartens, playgrounds, Jonas Brothers concerts, and other places where kids congregate.
Should he decide to snip off the anklet (the band is rubber, and would succumb easily to pruning shears), a severed cable
would alert the company that he had tampered with the unit, and absent a very good excuse he would likely be sent back to
prison. Little wonder that the law-enforcement officer who installed my ExacuTrack noted that he was doing me a favor by unboxing
a fresh unit: over their lifetimes, many of the trackers become encrusted with the filth and dead skin of previous bearers,
some of whom are infected with prison plagues such as herpes or hepatitis. Officers clean the units and replace the straps
between users, but I strongly preferred not to have anything rubbing against my ankle that had spent years rubbing against
Increasingly, GPS devices such as the one I wore are looking like an appealing alternative to conventional incarceration,
as it becomes ever clearer that, in the United States at least, traditional prison has become more or less synonymous
with failed prison. By almost any metric, our practice of locking large numbers of people behind bars has proved at
best ineffective and at worst a national disgrace. According to a recent Pew report, 2.3 million Americans are currently incarcerated—enough
people to fill the city of Houston. Since 1983, the number of inmates has more than tripled and the total cost of corrections
has jumped sixfold, from $10.4 billion to $68.7 billion. In California, the cost per inmate has kept pace with the cost of
an Ivy League education, at just shy of $50,000 a year.
This might make some sense if crime rates had also tripled. But they haven’t: rather, even as crime has fallen, the
sentences served by criminals have grown, thanks in large part to mandatory minimums and draconian three-strikes rules—politically
popular measures that have shown little deterrent effect but have left the prison system overflowing with inmates. The vogue
for incarceration might also make sense if the prisons repaid society’s investment by releasing reformed inmates who
behaved better than before they were locked up. But that isn’t the case either: half of those released are back in prison
within three years. Indeed, research by the economists Jesse Shapiro of the University of Chicago and M. Keith Chen of Yale
indicates that the stated purpose of incarceration, which is to place prisoners under harsh conditions on the assumption that
they will be “scared straight,” is actively counterproductive. Such conditions—and U.S. prisons are astonishingly
harsh, with as many as 20 percent of male inmates facing sexual assault—typically harden criminals, making them more
violent and predatory. Essentially, when we lock someone up today, we are agreeing to pay a large (and growing) sum of money
merely to put off dealing with him until he is released in a few years, often as a greater menace to society than when he
Devices such as the ExacuTrack, along with other advances in both the ways we monitor criminals and the ways we punish
them for their transgressions, suggest a revolutionary possibility: that we might turn the conventional prison system inside
out for a substantial number of inmates, doing away with the current, expensive array of guards and cells and fences, in favor
of a regimen of close, constant surveillance on the outside and swift, certain punishment for any deviations from an established,
legally unobjectionable routine. The potential upside is enormous. Not only might such a system save billions of dollars annually,
it could theoretically produce far better outcomes, training convicts to become law-abiders rather than more-ruthless lawbreakers.
The ultimate result could be lower crime rates, at a reduced cost, and with considerably less inhumanity in the bargain.
Moreover, such a change would in fact be less radical than it might at first appear. An underappreciated fact of our penitentiary
system is that of all Americans “serving time” at any given moment, only a third are actually behind bars. The
rest—some 5 million of them—are circulating among the free on conditional supervised release either as parolees,
who are freed from prison before their sentences conclude, or as probationers, who walk free in lieu of jail time. These prisoners-on-the-outside
have in fact outnumbered the incarcerated for decades. And recent innovations, both technological and procedural, could enable
such programs to advance to a stage where they put the traditional model of incarceration to shame.
In a number of experimental cases, they already have. Devices such as the one I wore on my leg already allow tens of thousands
of convicts to walk the streets relatively freely, impeded only by the knowledge that if they loiter by a schoolyard, say,
or near the house of the ex-girlfriend they threatened, or on a street corner known for its crack trade, the law will come
to find them. Compared with incarceration, the cost of such surveillance is minuscule—mere dollars per day—and
monitoring has few of the hardening effects of time behind bars. Nor do all the innovations being developed depend on technology.
Similar efforts to control criminals in the wild are under way in pilot programs that demand adherence to onerous parole guidelines,
such as frequent, random drug testing, and that provide for immediate punishment if the parolees fail. The result is the same:
convicts who might once have been in prison now walk among us unrecognized—like pod people, or Canadians.
There are, of course, many thousands of dangerous felons who can’t be trusted on the loose. But if we extended this
form of enhanced, supervised release even to just the nonviolent offenders currently behind bars, we would empty half our
prison beds in one swoop. Inevitably, some of those released would take the pruning-shears route. And some would offend again.
But then, so too do those convicts released at the end of their brutal, hardening sentences under our current system. And
even accepting a certain failure rate, by nearly any measure such “prisons without bars” would represent a giant
step forward for justice, criminal rehabilitation, and society.
In the 18th century, the
English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham designed the Panopticon, a hypothetical prison. Inside the Panopticon
(the name is derived from the Greek word for “all-seeing”), the prisoners are arranged in a ring of cells surrounding
their guard, who is concealed in a tower in the center. The idea is that the guard controls the prisoners through his presumed
observation: they constantly imagine his eyes on them, even when he’s looking elsewhere. Bentham promoted the concept
of the Panopticon for much the same reasons that spur criminal-justice innovation today—a ballooning prison population
and the need for a cheap solution with light manpower demands. Whereas the guard in Bentham’s day had only two eyes,
however, today’s watcher can be virtually all-seeing, thanks to GPS monitoring technology. The modern prisoner, in other
words, need not wonder whether he is being observed; he can be sure that he is, and at all times.
The hub of the American penal system’s largest open-air Panopticon is in the Indianapolis suburb of Anderson, population
57,496, at the call center of a company called BI Incorporated. The firm manufactures and services the ankle device I test-drove,
as well as a suite of other law-enforcement gadgets designed to track offenders. Though BI has a handful of rivals in the
monitoring business, it is the most prominent and best-known, with 55,000 offenders wearing BI anklets at any given moment.
(The company monitors another 10,000 using lower-tech means: for instance, by having them call from particular landlines at
I drove to Anderson from Indianapolis, past clapboard houses and cornfields, to visit BI’s offices, located on a
few discreet and highly secure floors above the local branch of KeyBank. I was buzzed up to meet Jennifer White, the BI vice
president in charge of monitoring. From her office window, we looked out not on the backs of the 30,000 offenders this branch
monitors, but on the sedate midwestern bedroom community that is, by her description, “a little bit less happening than
Muncie,” 20 miles away. Even the sleepy streets of Anderson have their secrets, though. White told me that below us
were about 120 criminals with BI anklets—roughly one for every 500 residents in the town.
White, an Indiana native, has been at BI since 1988. Over a turkey salad from Bob Evans, she explained that the company’s
first “clients” (as the monitored are always called) were not human beings but Holsteins. In 1978, BI began selling
systems that allowed dairy farmers to dispense feed to their cows automatically. The company fitted a radio-frequency tag
on each cow’s ear so that when the cow approached the feed dispenser, a sensor in the latter caused it to drop a ration
of fodder. If the same cow returned, the sensor recognized the unique signal of the tag and prevented the cow from getting
a second helping until after enough time had passed for her to digest the first. (The worlds of bovine and criminal management
have in fact been oddly intertwined for many years. Just as modern abattoirs have studied the colors that can distract and
agitate cows during their final moments—thus ruining their meat with adrenaline—prisons have painted their walls
in soothing shades to minimize anxiety and aggression in their inmates.)
In the 1980s, BI expanded into “tethering people.” As an early mover in the outpatient prison industry, BI
grew fast, and the Anderson office contains a one-room museum of the bulky devices from its early days, some the size of a
ham-radio set. The company now counts tracking people as its core business, and as a sideline it facilitates their reentry
into society, through treatment programs and counseling. BI monitors criminals in all 50 states, “everyone from people
who owe child support to ax murderers,” White told me. Most use the lowest-tech tracking equipment, a radio-frequency-based
technology that monitors house arrest. The system works simply: you keep a radio beacon in your home and a transmitter around
your ankle. If you wander too far from your beacon, an alert goes out to the BI call center in Anderson, which then notifies
your probation officer that you have left your designated zone—as Martha Stewart allegedly did during her BI-monitored
house arrest in 2005, earning a three-week extension of her five-month sentence.
The truly revolutionary BI devices, though, are the new generation of GPS trackers, which monitor criminals’ real-time
locations down to a few meters, enabling BI to control their movements almost as if they were marionettes. If you were a paroled
drunk driver, for instance, your parole officer could mandate that you stay home every day from dusk until dawn, be at your
workplace from nine to five, and go to and from work following a specific route—and BI would monitor your movements
to ensure compliance. If your parole terms included not entering a bar or liquor shop, the device could be programmed to start
an alert process if you lingered near such a location for more than 60 seconds. That alert could take the form of an immediate
notice to the monitors—“He’s at Drinkie’s again”—or even a spoken warning emanating from
the device itself, instructing you to leave the area or face the consequences. Another BI system, recently deployed with promising
results, features an electrostatic pad that presses against the offender’s upper arm at all times, chemically “tasting”
sweat for signs of alcohol. (In May, starlet Lindsay Lohan was ordered to wear a similar device, manufactured by a BI competitor,
after violating her probation stemming from DUI charges.)
To see the BI systems at work is to realize that Jeremy Bentham was thinking small. The call center consists of just a
few rows of desks, with a dozen or so men and women wearing headsets and speaking in Spanish and English to their “customers”
(the law-enforcement agents, as distinguished from the tracked “clients”). Each sits in front of a computer monitor,
and at the click of a mouse can summon up a screen detailing the movements of a client as far away as Guam, ensuring not only
that he avoids “exclusion zones”—schoolyards or bars or former associates’ homes, depending on the
circumstances—but also that he makes his way to designated “inclusion zones” at appointed times.
As a fail-safe against any technological glitch, whether accidental or malicious, BI is immensely proud of its backup systems,
which boast an ultrasecure data room and extreme redundancy: if, say, a toxic-gas cloud were to wipe out the town of Anderson,
the last act of the staff there would be to flip the switches diverting all call traffic to BI’s corporate office in
Boulder, Colorado, where a team capable of taking over instantly in case of disaster is always on duty.
I asked Jamie Roberts, a call-center employee who had previously been a BI customer as a corrections officer in Terre Haute,
Indiana, to show me a parolee on the move, and in seconds he pulled up the profile of a criminal in Newport News, Virginia.
The young man’s parole officer had used a Microsoft Bing online map to build a large irregular polygon around his high
school—an inclusion zone that would guarantee an alert if he failed to show up for class on time, every day. Roberts
showed me one offender after another: names and maps, lives scheduled down to the minute. There was a gambler whose anklet
was set to notify Roberts if the client approached the waterfront, because he might try his luck on the gaming boats; an addict
who couldn’t return to the street corners where he used to score crack; and an alcohol abuser who had to squeeze himself
into an inclusion zone around a church basement for an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting from 9 to 10 p.m., three times a week.
A strict parole officer could plausibly sketch out a complete weekly routine for his parolee, with specific times when
he would have to leave home and specific stations he would have to tag throughout the week. He might allow, or even require,
the parolee to go to the grocery store on a Sunday afternoon, and go for a jog along an authorized route every morning. Roberts
pulled up another Bing map for me, and set in motion a faster-than-real-time playback of one client’s day. As his dot
carefully skirted the exclusion zones around a school and a park, staying away from kids because of the absolute certainty
that BI would report him if he did not, his life on the outside looked fully set out in advance, as if he moved not on his
own feet but on rails laid by his parole officer. For BI clients, technology has made detection of any deviation a near certainty—and
with detection a swift response, one that often leads straight back to the Big House.
Arizona inmate escape puts spotlight on state private prisons
Arizona puts more of its inmates into privately run prisons
every year, even though the prisons may not be as secure as state-run facilities and may not save taxpayers money.
using private prisons to ease overcrowding and have supported their use so aggressively that today, one in five Arizona inmates
is housed in a private facility.
Many inmates from other states also are housed in private prisons in Arizona, but the state has little
information about who they are and limited oversight of how they are secured.
The state has 11 privately operated prisons.
A high-profile escape of three Arizona inmates last month from a Kingman-area private prison, which spurred
a nationwide manhunt and is believed to have resulted in two murders, raises questions about the industry's growth and the
degree of state oversight.
The last fugitives in that escape were caught Thursday, and the state's prison director has promised changes
to the private sites that house Arizona inmates.
State leaders in recent years have pushed for more privatization and have blocked efforts to regulate the
industry, which has invested heavily in local lobbying and contributed to political campaigns.
Last year, officials approved a plan to hand over the operation of nearly every state prison to private
companies. The plan was repealed only after no credible bidder came forward. This year, lawmakers approved 5,000 new private-prison
beds for Arizona prisoners.
Data suggest that the facilities are less cost-effective than they claim to be. A cost study by the Arizona
Department of Corrections this year found that it can often be more expensive to house inmates in private prisons than in
their state-run counterparts.
A growing industry
Arizona's use of private prisons dates back to the early 1990s, when lawmakers, grappling with overcrowding
in state facilities, authorized the construction of a 450-bed minimum-security prison in Marana to house drug and alcohol
The prison is owned and operated by Management & Training Corp., the Utah-based company that also operates
the Kingman facility where the three inmates escaped.
Since then, Arizona has increasingly relied on for-profit operators to manage its own inmates. It also
has allowed private companies to import prisoners from other states.
Rapid growth began in 2003 and the years immediately following, when Arizona was again wrestling with prison
To ease the shortage, Republican lawmakers agreed to build 2,000 new prison beds, compromising with a reluctant
Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat, to make half of them private.
Around the same time, nearly a dozen other states grappling with the same issues began shipping their inmates
to private facilities elsewhere in the country.
Arizona, with cheap land and a receptive political climate, became a go-to destination for
private-prison operators, who began accepting inmates from as far as Washington and Hawaii.
Today, Arizona houses 20.1 percent of its prisoners in private facilities, according to state data from
July. Exactly how many inmates are here from other states is unclear.
Last year, lawmakers took the unprecedented step of exploring the privatization of almost the entire Arizona
correctional system, passing a bill that would have turned over the state's prisons to private operators for an up-front payment
of $100 million. The payment would have helped the state close a billion-dollar budget gap.
The bill, which also included a host of changes related to the state's budget, was signed by Gov. Jan Brewer,
but the language relating to prison privatization was repealed in a later special session.
The state now has an open contract for the construction and operation of 5,000 new private-prison beds.
Arizona's reliance on private facilities coincides with operators' increasing national political activity
in hiring lobbyists and donating to political campaigns.
The ties between the companies and Arizona elected officials - which go back nearly a decade - have become
a campaign issue in this year's gubernatorial race.
Tennessee-based Corrections Corporation of America, the nation's largest operator of private prisons, runs
six in Arizona, three of which house inmates for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Brewer's critics have suggested that she signed Senate Bill 1070, and has advocated for privatization of
some prisons, in part to benefit CCA's bottom line.
Democrats have called on Brewer, a Republican, to fire "aides" associated with the prison company. That
includes HighGround, a Phoenix consulting and lobbying firm managing Brewer's gubernatorial campaign. The firm counts CCA
among its clients.
Brewer's official spokesman, Paul Senseman, also used to lobby for CCA.
Campaign finance reports filed earlier this year show that eight executives with CCA contributed $1,080
of the $51,193 in seed money Brewer received for her gubernatorial campaign.
CCA also gave $10,000 to the "Yes on 100" campaign, which backed a temporary, 1-cent-on-the-dollar increase
in the state's sales tax. Brewer was the chief advocate for the tax, which was approved by voters in May.
In an interview with The Arizona Republic, Brewer said those connections have not
influenced her policy decisions. She said she never felt pressured by any of her advisers.
"It's absolutely political posturing and rhetoric," Brewer said. "I find it very disappointing. We have
a bed shortage here in Arizona, and we have to come up with some way to incarcerate (criminals). The best way, the least expensive
way, is to do it with private prisons."
The industry's political connections have extended to other Arizona politicians.
According to a 2006 report from the National Institute on Money in State Politics, the private-prison industry
gave to the campaigns of 29 of 42 Arizona lawmakers who heard a 2003 proposal to increase state private-prison beds.
Between 2001 and 2004, the industry contributed $77,267 to Arizona's legislative and gubernatorial candidates,
the vast majority through lobbyists paid to represent their interests at the Legislature.
In most cases, donations ranged from a couple of hundred dollars to as much as $2,500.
The state Department of Corrections has varying levels of oversight of Arizona's private-prison network.
Some prisons house criminals convicted in Arizona. The Corrections Department regulates those facilities,
though private-prison critics question whether those facilities maintain the same safety standards as their state-run counterparts.
Other private prisons house inmates from other states or on behalf of the federal government. Arizona does
not dictate what kinds of inmates they may accept, nor the manner in which they are secured.
In those situations, private-prison operators work with their outside-government partners on training specifications
and other operational details.
They report to Arizona only the names, security classifications and number of inmates housed at their facilities.
State stat- utes do not require private operators to provide Arizona officials details about the crimes the prisoners committed
or escape data.
In 2007, two convicted killers sent from another state stole ladders from a maintenance building and climbed
onto a roof at a private prison outside Florence. Brandishing a fake gun, they climbed over the prison walls and escaped to
One was caught within hours, but it was almost a month before the other was caught hundreds of miles away
in his home state of Washington.
As with the Kingman breakout, the 2007 escape drew attention to the largely unregulated growth of private
prisons in the state, particularly prisons that house other states' inmates.
To address security concerns, a bipartisan bill drafted by Napolitano's office in 2008 and introduced by
Republican state Sen. Robert Blendu would have required private prisons to be built to the state's construction standards.
The proposal also would have ended the practice of private prisons importing murderers, rapists and other
dangerous felons to Arizona. And it would have required the companies to share security and inmate information with state
After an initial flurry of activity, the bill died.
"The private-prison industry lobbied heavily against that bill, and they were successful," said Michael
Haener, Napolitano's lobbyist at the time.
Blendu later left the Legislature, and the bill was not reintroduced.
What little regulation private prisons have in Arizona stems from a series of escapes in the late 1990s.
In response, the Legislature passed a law requiring the reimbursement of law-enforcement costs from private-prison
operators in the event of an escape.
Arizona laws also require companies to carry insurance to cover law-enforcement costs in cases of escape,
to notify state officials when they bring new prisoners into the state and to return out-of-state prisoners to their home
states to be released. But there are no penalties if the companies don't comply.
Notwithstanding lawmakers' concerns about security, private prisons gained favor in part because of the
promised savings they could deliver to a cash-strapped and overcrowded prison system. Yet studies have questioned whether
those savings are real.
In making their pitches, private-prison companies played on the desire of many lawmakers to shift more
state services to the private sector.
Direct cost comparisons between for-profit and public prisons can be difficult, however.
According to the National Institute of Justice, private prisons tend to make much lower estimates of their
overhead costs to the state for oversight, inmate health care and staff background checks.
Officials at public prisons often argue that the state winds up paying a higher cost for those services
than is advertised, mitigating savings that private prisons are built to deliver.
A study this year by the Arizona Department of Corrections found that when various costs are factored in,
it can be more expensive to house an inmate in a private prison than it is to house one in a state-run prison.
The cost of housing a medium-security inmate is $3 to $8 more per day in a private prison, depending on
what assumptions are made about overhead costs to the state, the study found.
Travis Pratt, a professor of criminology and criminal justice at Arizona State University, said there is
no evidence that private prisons save government agencies money, even though they typically promise up-front savings.
To maintain profit margins, Pratt said, companies often cut back on staff training, wages and inmate services.
"Cost savings like that don't come without consequences," Pratt said. "And that can present a security
risk that's elevated."
Odie Washington, a senior vice president at Management & Training Corp., acknowledged Thursday that
the Kingman prison employed an inexperienced staff.
"We have a lot of very young staff that have not integrated into very strong security practices," Washington
Private-prison operators disagree with Pratt's assessment, contending that they can deliver services efficiently
"That's one of the more frustrating misconceptions out there for us that we have to repeatedly respond
to," said Steve Owen, director of public affairs for Corrections Corporation of America.
Owen said it is CCA's "general experience" that private prisons can save states and the federal government
5 to 15 percent on operational costs. The company also can build facilities more cheaply, he said.
CCA is contractually required to meet or exceed training requirements that states they work for set for
themselves, Owen said. In addition, the company has made sure its prisons in Arizona comply with accreditation standards put
in place by the American Correctional Association, a Virginia-based trade group.
Many communities, meanwhile, eagerly welcome private prisons because the facilities generate jobs and economic
activity. CCA prisons in Florence and Eloy, for example, employ 2,700 people. Last year, the company paid $26 million in property
taxes, Owen said.
Lawmakers from both parties have called for hearings into what went wrong in Kingman. Presumptive Democratic
gubernatorial nominee Terry Goddard has said he would push to bring back the 2008 private-prison bill.
Goddard also is calling for an immediate re-evaluation of the system used to classify and place inmates
The five-tiered system, which allows some violent criminals to migrate to lower-security facilities for
good behavior, met with bipartisan criticism in the wake of the escapes.
Two of the three inmates who escaped from the medium-security Kingman prison had been convicted of murder.
Goddard said the three recent escapees never should have been in a medium-security prison.
Charles Ryan, director of the Department of Corrections, announced Thursday that the state would slow its
bidding process for the 5,000 new private-prison beds pending additional review.
Brewer has said little publicly about the escape but told The Republic last week
that she is committed to holding prison operators responsible for mistakes they made. She said she has ordered Ryan to conduct
a "complete review to make sure that inmates are appropriately secured and in the right kinds of facilities."
While Brewer remains confident that private prisons are well suited to house less-violent offenders, she
said: "What has happened is unacceptable, and I am absolutely pushing for more accountability.
Union: Federal prison reacted poorly to ‘gang’ fights (update)
RAY BROOK - The union that represents corrections officers and other workers at the Federal Correctional
Institution in Ray Brook says prison officials responded poorly to a recent outbreak of what it described as "gang-related"
violence at the medium-security facility.
The American Federation of Government Employees and its Council of Prison Locals, in a press release, said
two gang-related incidents earlier this month led to the hospitalization of one inmate and the near assault of a corrections
officer. Despite the violence, prison management mostly kept operations running normally, the union said, citing information
from officials at AFGE Local 3882, which represents FCI-Ray Brook's roughly 200 corrections officers and other staff.
"The warden's refusal to lock down FCIRay Brook in the wake of this violence is nothing more than a dismissal of reality,"
CPL President Bryan Lowry said in the release. "Management continues to turn a blind eye toward dangerous situations that
put correctional officers, inmates and the surrounding communities at risk, while categorizing each instance
as an isolated incident."
But Robin Van Weelden, FCI-Ray Brook's public information officer, argued that staff did take appropriate steps to address
the Aug. 1 incident, which involved a pair of inmate fights. In a prepared statement, Van Weelden said the prison was placed
on lockdown, during which security is tightened and inmates are confined to their cells, "as a routine precaution to allow
prison officials to assess the situation.
"The institution gradually resumed normal operations starting on August 6, 2010, with a complete return to normal operations
on August 9, 2010," Van Weelden wrote. "The institution remains secure, all inmates are accounted for, and at no time was
there a threat to the community."
Two inmates received minor injuries, Van Weelden said. One of the two was transported to a local hospital, evaluated and
returned to the facility the same day. There were no staff assaults or injuries, she said.
Van Weelden declined to provide further information as an investigation into the incident is ongoing.
But local union officials dispute some of the information provided by the prison's administration.
Steve Bartlemus, president of AFGE Local 3882, told the Enterprise claim there were four or five fights between the same
two groups of inmates, some of them wielding homemade weapons or "shanks," spread out over a period of six days. The prison
was placed on a full lockdown status for a day-and-a-half, but each time officials tried to bring the facility back to normal
operations or to run it in a modified lockdown status, new fights broke out, Bartlemus said.
"When we go in a lockdown, normally it's locked down, nothing happens, and we go in 12-hour shifts until we figure out
the root of the problem," said Bartlemus, who lives in Ellenburg and has worked at the prison for 15 years. "In my opinion
they never figured out the root of the problem. I could understand the first two times it happened. But when the second and
third incidents happened, that should have told somebody upstairs, 'You know what, we've got a big problem. Let's slow things
down and figure out what's going on.'"
Contrary to Van Weelden's report, Bartlemus said staff were hurt trying to break up the fights.
"There were staff that got injured," he said. "It was nothing life threatening. If (prison officials) had handled it in
a different manner, would they have gotten injured? Probably not."
"If they had locked down sooner, some of these other incidents may not have occurred," said CPL Northeast Regional Vice
President Bill Gillette, who works at a maximum-security federal penitentiary in Pennsylvania.
Gillette said the union's local members are reluctant to talk about the incidents in more detail because the last time
they reported something to the media, several staff were placed under investigation by prison officials for alleged violation
of security regulations.
"They were all found innocent of those charges," he said. "It took about seven or eight months for that investigation to
be complete. It was just an attempt to stop them from going to the press."
CPL officials said they are raising concerns about the incidents at FCI Ray Brook to send a message to the U.S. Bureau
of Prisons to fully staff and fund its prisons. The union also wants correctional officers, who don't carry weapons inside
the facility, to be issued stab-resistant vests and pepper spray.
"The days of 'doing more with less' must end," Lowry said in the release. "If management continues to operate the BOP under
its current conditions - understaffed, overcrowded, and with an increasingly violent inmate population - more tragic incidents
are sure to follow."
Last year, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer held a press conference at the prison to announce he would push for additional federal
funding to increase the facility's staffing levels.
FCI Ray Brook houses 1,214 inmates, according to the most recent BOP prison count. The facility was originally build as
the athletes' village for the 1980 Winter Olympics and became a prison shortly thereafter.
DOJ Foot- Dragging on Prison Rape Unites Left- Right Coalition
Focus on the Family, George Soros's Open Society Policy Center,
the American Conservative Union and the American Civil Liberties Union are all furious with Attorney General
Eric Holder -- and amazingly enough, it's about the same thing.
The incitement for such an unusual alliance is the Justice Department's failure to act in the
face of a challenge to fundamental human dignity: The ongoing, almost commonplace rape of prisoners at the hands of other
prisoners or prison guards.
Estimates based on a 2007 DOJ survey of inmates
suggest that more than 60,000 prisoners -- or about 1 in 20 -- are sexually assaulted each year.
A law passed in 2003 created an independent commission to develop national standards to
address the problem. The commission issued its exhaustive report in June 2009. And
the attorney general was required by law to enact new standards by June 23, 2010.
That was nearly two months ago.
In a June letter June, Holder expressed his "regret"
that he would not be able to meet Congress's deadline. He explained that the working group he commissioned -- which represents
13 different Justice Department offices and the Department of Homeland Security -- is moving as fast as it can.
So on Tuesday, the unusual coalition gathered at the National Press Club to demand faster action.
Prison rape continues because "the system looks the other way," said David Keene, chairman of
the American Conservative Union. And now the regulations are lagging "because this is not at the top of anybody's agenda."
But the net effect is that Holder "is asking for time so that another 60,000 can be raped,"
"We can't tolerate the attitude that it is inconvenient to do what's necessary to stop the problem
today, before we rack up thousands of more victims," said Margaret Winter, associate director of the ACLU's National
"When you look at the political spectrum that's represented at the podium here this morning,
you realize that there is something very fundamental at stake here, a question of the most fundamental human dignity, human
rights and constitutional rights," Winter said.
The message for Holder: "You've had long enough. The recommendations are there. The recommendations
are obvious. And they need to be put in place," said Barrett Duke, an official with the Southern Baptist Convention.
What makes this such an important issue for conservative evangelical Christians?
"We believe in law and order," Duke said. "We expect law and order everywhere." There's also
the matter of moral failing. Our leaders "have failed to fulfill the responsibilities that have been entrusted to them," Duke
Tim Goeglein, spokesman for Focus on the Family, said his group's position on the issues is
prompted "by the sanctity of every human life."
"The fact that people are not safe in our prisons ... is a scandal, that's a stain on
our honor," said Pat Nolan, vice president of the Prison Fellowship and a former member of the independent commission. (See
his blog post.)
Nolan noted that prisoners are "stripped of all ability to defend themselves" as they have no
choice over who to associate with, or where, or when -- and they "can't arm themselves to defend themselves."
Bill Mefford, civil rights director for the United Methodist Church, said the issue is important
to the "thousands and thousands" of churchgoers who minister in prisons. "They are seeing and witnessing firsthand the brokenness
of the system and the way it impacts human lives," he said.
Holder, he said, should "stop dragging his feet, and stop listening to people who are trying
to protect their turf."
Lovisa Stannow, executive director of Just Detention International, said there is nothing inevitable
or innate about prison rape. "Prison rape is basically a management problem," she said. The proof is that the rate of rape
varies widely from state to state and from prison to prison.
A Justice Department spokeswoman on Tuesday said that a proposed rule will be sent to the White
House's Office of Management and Budget "in the fall." Hannah August wrote in an e-mail: "We are working hard not only to
draft the standards, but also to ensure that the standards are successful after they're put into place. We want to be a force
multiplier, enabling best practices to gain recognition and enabling correctional systems with less experience to benefit
from the prior efforts of other jurisdictions. It is unacceptable for anyone in the care of our country's correctional facilities
to be sexually assaulted, and we are working diligently towards eliminating such abuse."
In Hill testimony in March, Holder described the pushback he's getting, much of it related to
the fact that no additional funding comes with the new rules. "When I speak to wardens, when I speak to people who run local
jails, when I speak to people who run state facilities, they look at me and they say 'Eric, how are we supposed to do this?'
If we are going to segregate people, build new facilities, do training, how are we supposed to do this? And that is what we
are trying to work out, ways in which we can follow the dictates of the statute and do something that is going to be meaningful,
not something that is simply going to be a show thing, something that is going to have a measurable impact."
Central to the commission's recommendation is the call for independent, outside monitoring of
prisons. "Unfortunately, there is concern that the attorney general will backpedal on this key part," said Amy Fettig, staff
attorney with the ACLU National Prison Project.
FCI inmate dies after altercation
TALLADEGA — An inmate at Talladega’s
Federal Correctional Institute was pronounced dead early Thursday morning after being involved in an altercation with another
Bobby Wayne Cowley, 32, “was pronounced dead
at a local hospital” at 3:40 a.m., according to Charles Sansom, executive assistant to the warden at FCI.
“Cowley was serving a 60-month sentence for possession of a firearm in furtherance
of drug trafficking,” he said. “The next of kin have been notified
(and) the death is currently under investigation.”
Cowley was sentenced to prison by the federal court for the
Northern District of Texas. According to the online federal inmate locator,
he was due to be released April
Sansom declined to comment on Cowley’s cause of death or any details of the altercation leading
up to it.
Freeze on bonuses could have trickledown effect
While the executive order President Obama signed on Tuesday suspending bonuses and
cash awards for political appointees through the end of fiscal 2011 does not directly affect career civil servants there could
be trickledown effects, according to a group representing senior executives.
In justifying the freeze in any bonuses or discretionary payments or salary adjustments for political officials, Obama
said he appreciated the work of federal employees and understood these payments were important to them. "Yet like households
and businesses across the country, we need to make tough choices about how to spend our funds," the president said.
Carol Bonosaro, president of the Senior Executives Association, said the freeze was
not surprising, but she was concerned there will be indirect effects on the career civil service.
"When you're a political appointee who is suddenly not eligible to receive a cash
award, your inclination to be appropriately generous to your career executives will be decreased," she said.
Performance awards, which are completely discretionary, are a substantial part of
senior executives' compensation, according to Bonosaro. Members of the SES do not receive the same annual pay raises as General
Schedule employees; senior executives' pay is based on job performance, under a system established by the fiscal 2004 National
Defense Authorization Act.
"We have already heard some concerns from executives that agencies might be cutting
back on performance awards for the same reasons the president cited," she said. "When you add this [executive order] to the
mix, it does raise concerns."
Matthew Biggs, legislative and political director for the International Federation
of Professional and Technical Engineers, said the order was a clear extension of the president's earlier statements that political
appointees should not expect raises. But Biggs said any future actions affecting the bonuses of career federal employees could
have unintended consequences.
"In terms of the potential of things to come, if a similar freeze on bonuses were
to be extended to the rank and file, it would not be a stretch to assume that such an action would seriously endanger any
future effort by [the Office of Personnel Management] to put in place governmentwide performance management," Biggs said.
Presidential Memorandum--Freeze Discretionary Awards, Bonuses
and Similar Payments
MEMORANDUM FOR THE ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT AND CHIEF OF STAFF THE HEADS OF EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS
SUBJECT: Freeze on Discretionary Awards, Bonuses, and Similar Payments for Federal Political Appointees
At a time when so many American families are struggling to make ends meet, I am committed to making sure the Federal Government
is spending the taxpayers' money wisely and carefully, and cutting costs wherever possible. I am committed to ending
programs that do not work, streamlining those that do, and bringing a new responsibility for stewardship of tax dollars.
Like households and businesses across the country, the Federal Government is tightening its belt. This effort began
during my first days in office, when I froze the salaries of the senior members of my White House Staff.
As a next step in this effort, I direct you to suspend cash awards, quality step increases, bonuses, and similar discretionary
payments or salary adjustments to any politically appointed Federal employee, commencing immediately, and continuing through
the end of Fiscal Year 2011. I also direct the Office of Personnel Management to issue guidance, in consultation with the Office of Management and Budget, to assist departments
and agencies in implementing this policy.
In addition to these actions freezing discretionary payments, I have proposed in my Budget for Fiscal Year 2011 a salary
freeze for senior political appointees throughout the Federal Government. Unlike the administrative action I have taken
today in this memorandum, my proposed salary freeze requires legislation, so it cannot be implemented absent legislative action
by the Congress.
I appreciate the hard work of our Federal workforce, and understand how important these payments can be to many workers
and their families. Yet like households and businesses across the country, we need to make tough choices about how to
spend our funds.
This memorandum shall be carried out to the extent permitted by law and consistent with executive departments' and agencies'
legal authorities. Nothing in this memorandum shall be construed to affect payments or salary adjustments for Federal
employees who are not political appointees. This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit,
substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies,
or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.
The Director of the Office of Management and Budget is hereby authorized
and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.
Prison inmate dies after assault
An inmate at the U.S. Federal Penitentiary at Lewisburg died
Tuesday from injuries he suffered when assaulted by another inmate two weeks ago.
Arnold Smith, 54, of Huntington Beach,
Calif., was assaulted June 1 in a housing unit and died at an unidentified Valley hospital Tuesday evening, according to a
statement released by penitentiary spokesman Andrew Ciolli.
The injuries Smith suffered were not disclosed and the
cause of death is pending an autopsy.
The FBI is investigating the assault, the statement said.
The press office
at the penitentiary did not respond to calls for further information Wednesday.
A spokeswoman from the Federal Bureau
of Prisons in Washington, D.C., said the agency did not have information regarding inmate deaths at specific prisons and referred
questions to the Lewisburg Penitentiary.
Smith was serving an eight-year, four-month sentence for conspiracy to provide
contraband to federal prisoners, attempt to obtain and possess contraband by a federal prisoner and conspiracy to distribute
a controlled substance-heroin.
He had been housed with about 1,200 prisoners at Lewisburg since Aug. 10.
assault was one of three violent incidents involving inmates in a nine-day span in late May and early June.
officials are usually tight-lipped about inmate assaults, which are investigated by federal officials.
Local 148 President
Dave Bartlett, who represents prison employees, said the number of reported assaults were not unusual and inmates seem to
get restless and unruly during warmer months.
Mother of Slain Correctional Officer Jose Rivera Files Civil Rights Lawsuit
Against Administrators at USP Atwater/Federal Bureau of Prisons for the Wrongful Death of her Son
"This tragedy was avoidable. Officer Rivera faithfully served the people of the United States as a peace officer managing violent criminals and his life was unnecessarily cut
short," said Mark Peacock attorney for Terry Rivera. "Why wasn't
a correctional officer working at a maximum security prison given anything to protect himself? A stab-resistant vest? Pepper
spray? A Baton? Why were prisoners drunk? It's time to get answers," added Peacock.
The lawsuit contends that the defendants were responsible for multiple dangerous
conditions at USP Atwater which existed at the time of the murder. For example, misclassification/mishousing of inmate Guerrero;
inmates making & consuming alcohol (getting drunk); inmates choosing their own cells; inmates making weapons; inmates
controlling prison environment; exploding inmate population; seriously undermanned work force; etc. Officer Rivera was repeatedly
subjected to these dangerous conditions (and others). The defendants acted with deliberate indifference by participating
in the creation of these dangerous conditions and failing and refusing to protect Officer Rivera from them.
"This was a totally unnecessary murder which could have been avoided. These individuals
dishonored the correctional staff, and this dishonor contributed to the death of Officer Rivera," said Peacock.
Federal prison officials hold employment fair for potential
Thomson Prison jobs
DAVENPORT, Iowa - For the past nine years in Thomson, Illinois, no inmates has meant no
jobs. But with the proposed sale of the prison, that could soon change.
"We are very excited. This a very
large facility with a lot of bed space," said Michael Prater, Federal Bureau of Prisons Public Information Officer.
with the Federal Bureau of Prisons held a job fair Thursday talking about potential jobs at the prison should it's sale to
the federal government go through.
"Once we acquire the prison, if it does come to fruition, the next day we'll start
hiring," said Prater.
Dozens wanting more information listened to a speech inside a Palmer College hall. Some are having
trouble funding a job, finding themselves falling on hard times.
"There's no jobs in the paper. If you
look in the classifieds there's nothing," said Dayla Jones, a job fair attendee.
"I don't have a job at all. I've been
going through a lot," said Cheryl Peel.
Eight to nine-hundred jobs would be created through the sale. More than half
of those jobs would be hired locally.
"We're really look forward to the possibility of going through this and giving
this area an economic boost," said Prater.
Money for the prison is included in next years federal budget. In the Quad
Cities, hundreds are waiting to put in their application as soon as the funding is approved.
Barack Obama's budget may not be approved until November or later. Once it is approved, the Federal Bureau of Prisons says
it will hit the ground running, immediately beginning the hiring process.
Inmate dies after fight at Pollock prison
POLLOCK, La. (AP) - Authorities say a prison fight led to the death of a 42-year-old inmate in the federal
prison in Pollock.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons says Steven Prater died Thursday after he was involved in a fight
with another inmate in the high-security section of the Federal Correctional Complex in Pollock. The agency says Prater was
taken to a hospital and pronounced dead at 3 p.m. Prater was serving a 51-month sentence on a weapons charge.
No other inmates were injured in the fight.
The FBI is looking into the death.
Thomson prison sale to feds still on track
No one knows who will be housed there, but the administration of President Barack Obama is moving to buy the Thomson
prison by the end of the year.
The nearly empty state-built lock-up north of the Quad Cities had been eyed as a destination for terror suspects when
the U.S. military's prison in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba closed. That has yet to happen, but now there's word that Thomson will
be bought regardless of who will be housed there.
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and northern Illinois Congressman Don
Manzullo have said the federal Bureau of Prisons is moving ahead with the sale.
Ronald Weich, an assistant attorney
general, told the lawmakers that the federal government is standing behind its commitment to buy the facility.
Bay, Cuba, terror suspects are not brought to Illinois or anywhere else in the U.S., Thomson may be used for federal inmates
from other prisons across the country.
Gov. Pat Quinn's office released a statement saying the purchase of Thomson
would be great news for that section of Illinois. Thomson is about 200 miles north of Jacksonville.
office predicts thousands of jobs and a $1 billion impact on the Illinois economy.
But there are a number of people
who live near the prison who are not excited about the prospect of bringing terrorists to the state. Lawmakers in Springfield
have also questioned the wisdom of the sale.
Illinois built the Thomson prison in 2001 to ease overcrowding in state
Budget cuts and political in-fighting have kept the prison nearly empty.
Bill Would Ban Transfer of Gitmo Detainees to Thomson
A House Appropriations panel approved an amendment to the Justice Department’s annual funding bill Tuesday that
would prohibit the DOJ from incarcerating terrorism suspects currently held at Guantanamo Bay in an Illinois prison.
The subcommittee for Commerce, Justice, science and related agencies approved the $30 billion dollar bill — which
would provide funding for programs in the Department to Justice in fiscal 2011 — by voice vote. The measure would include
$170 million for the Justice Department to acquire Thomson Correctional Facility in Thomson, Ill., but the subcommittee adopted
an amendment at the markup Tuesday that is intended to prevent the DOJ from moving Guantanamo Bay detainees to the site.
The panel’s ranking Republican Frank Wolf of Virginia offered an amendment that would prohibit the
DOJ from using any of the funds in the bill to construct, acquire or modify a facility in the U.S. to hold Guantanamo Bay
detainees. The panel adopted the amendment by voice vote.
Wolf said the amendment would still allow the DOJ to purchase the Thomson facility so long as it didn’t hold Guantanamo
detainees. The DOJ’s Bureau of Prisons has said it intends to acquire the prison — even if the Guantanamo prisoners
cannot stay there — to help alleviate crowding in the federal prison system.
The opposition to housing Guantanamo detainees in the U.S. is not new. The House Armed Services Committee also included
a provision in the fiscal 2011 defense authorization measure that would prohibit the Department of Defense from using its
funding to pay for the prisoner transfer.
Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas) offered several amendments — all of which failed — including
one that would have banned the Justice Department from filing a lawsuit against the Arizona immigration law.
Passes Bill To Create Criminal Justice Commission
The U.S. House yesterday passed a bill
to create a commission that would undertake a top-to-bottom review of the nation’s criminal
justice system, says its main sponsor, Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-MA). “Today our
prison population is expanding at an alarming rate, with costs to the taxpayers that are unsustainable,” Delahunt said. ”The
bill passed tonight will assess the current crisis, reverse these disturbing trends and help save taxpayer money.”
The Senate has passed this bill out of the Judiciary Committee, but, it
hasn't passed the full Senate.
The nation's unemployment crisis is now reaching far inside
Since 2008, thousands of inmates have lost their jobs as federal authorities shutter and scale back operations at prison
recycling, furniture, cable and electronics assembly factories to try to make up $65 million in losses. The job cuts, prison
officials say, mean a dramatic reduction in job training for inmates preparing for release, lost wages for prisoners to pay
down child support and other court-ordered fines, and more tension in already
overcrowded institutions. "Anytime we have a loss of inmate jobs ... it becomes more challenging to keep inmates constructively
occupied," federal Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman Traci Billingsley says. Bureau records show
the job cuts during the past two years coincide with slight increases in serious inmate assaults on staff and other prisoners.
Slightly more than 7,000 federal
prisoners have been cut from the work rolls in the past two years, and up to 800 more are expected to be dropped in
the next several months, according to Federal Prison Industries records.The latest cut, announced last week, will closenine
factories scattered from Pennsylvania to California
and includes reductions in staff at 11 others, Federal Prison Industries spokeswoman Julie Rozier says. She says the cuts
represent some of the largest reductions in the 75-year history of the federal prison workforce. "We're feeling the same pressures
that are present in the overall economy," she says. This year, 16,115 of the system's 211,146 inmates are working in the factory
jobs, down from 23,152 in 2008. Federal Prison Industries is a government
corporation established by Congress in 1934 that provides training for federal inmates. The industries generate about 80 products and services for
sale to the federal government. In return, inmates are paid up to $1.15 per hour. Much of that goes to child support, fines, restitution and other court-ordered obligations. Prison guards and others fear
the cuts could spark inmate unrest in overcrowded institutions where jobs — however menial — have kept prisoners
occupied. Last year, serious assaults on staffers increased to 105, up from 100 in 2008, while inmate-on-inmate assaults totaled
524, up from 475 in 2008. "This is a big concern for us," says Bryan Lowry, president of the federal prison employees association.
Because of yearly prison population increases, he says, the federal system is running 37% over capacity.Fewer jobs mean more
downtime for inmates and more crowded recreation yards and housing units.
In some places, Lowry says, there is only one prison officer for about 150 inmates: "It's not a good situation."
on prison violence
There have been
three inmates killed in the U.S. Penitentiary in Lewisburg since the beginning of May. The most recent
homicide inside the walls of the penitentiary took place on Tuesday. The trio of deaths come less than a
year after a guard was stabbed by an inmate wielding a metal-tipped
from rolled-up newspapers and magazines. Last month, three staff members were attacked as they tried to
quell a brawl at the U.S. Penitentiary in Allenwood. A union Web site indicates that the fight arose from conflict
between unidentified prison gangs. At least one of the inmates killed in Lewisburg was a known gang member. In
1992, Juan "China Boy" Arias survived getting shot in the chest during a gang gun fight. Arias
was 27 in 1997 when he was sentenced to 32 years in federal prison for his involvement in the Los Angeles Mexican
Mafia. Arias was one of 13 men prosecuted under federal racketeering laws for an array of crimes, including
jailhouse murder, street stabbings, extorting "tributes" of thousands of dollars from other Latino street gangs,
and drug trafficking. At the time, the judge said he was cutting Arias a break because of his young age.
News reports noted that he would be in his 60s when he was released from jail. Arias was 40 when he died in Lewisburg.
raise Arias' background not to glorify his notoriety, but to convey just what prison guards say when they describe
working with the "worst of the worst" criminals in the federal prison system. Danger is their business. Professional
pride may often make prison employees reluctant to complain or suggest that more ought to be done
to protect them. After a correctional officer was stabbed in November, union officials said staff levels were
too low. In recent weeks, it has been difficult to judge how safe
because neither the Bureau of Prisons, nor the correctional officers union are saying much. It is difficult to
feel like conditions could have improved much, though, as the death toll rises. We hope federal prison officials take
adequate steps to ensure that staffing levels are sufficient and guards receive all the equipment and training
they need. The unwillingness to share information only fosters uncertainty and fear. We urge prison
officials begin to speak as openly as they can without creating any lapses in security.
Sick leave is a job benefit, not a privilege
managers may have the legal right to use sick leave restriction letters ["How to fight sick leave abuse," Ask the Lawyer column,
April 19 issue], I could find no guidelines during my career on what constitutes sick leave abuse. There was no usable
definition of what constitutes incapacity. Is a headache sufficient reason to take sick leave? What about depression and
other gray areas? Simply having a chronic condition may be reason for days off. Having to submit to interrogation by a
manager who may already be hostile toward an employee for absences is demeaning and rife with potential for abuse by the manager. Not
all conditions require a visit to the doctor, so requiring this documentation is not an effective way to respond to sick leave
abuse. Managers are not doctors and are not qualified to make decisions about what constitutes incapacity, especially in
the absence of agency guidelines. Managers are not employment lawyers and are not qualified to make judgments about what
constitutes abuse. My solution to the problem is simply to recognize that the employee's sick leave is his to use or conserve
as he sees fit. When employees exhaust their sick leave, they may have to
leave the service or take leave without pay if their incapacity continues. While this may seem harsh, it is a policy that
recognizes that employees are responsible for their actions, and it treats all employees with dignity and respect. When
employees minimize use of sick leave, and provide exemplary service, they should be rewarded by payment or compensation for
unused sick leave, as all now are at retirement since Congress in November approved sick leave credit for Federal Employees Retirement System employees.
Because sometimes the need is real, I would also allow employees who build large sick leave balances to donate portions
of their sick leave to employees who have exhausted their sick leave. Currently, employees can only donate annual leave. This
policy results in broadcast appeals for donations, and probably little response from employees, who value their annual leave
more than their sick leave. Policies are based on a mistaken idea that sick leave is a privilege and not a job benefit.I
did not abuse sick leave; I managed my health and medical needs. I treated my sick leave as an asset to be used. At one point,
I had more than 1,500 hours of accumulated sick leave. On the day I retired I had no balance. My management went along, as
I was upfront and had every hour approved, generally in advance. I went to human resources and inquired about standards, and
found there were none. I went to the department website and found there were no rules to follow. I went to the Office of Personnel Management and found no assistance there, either. If there is an understandable
standard, it isn't being promoted.As I was not compensated under FERS for
my unused sick leave, the result was a zero balance. This was the result of the way FERS was implemented. If I were still
working, and under the current policies, I would probably save my sick leave aggressively.The problem is that managers pretend
that the problem is employees who abuse something that isn't theirs. This is a result of the way the agency treats employees,
not the way employees "abuse" the system. Agencies should view excessive sick leave as a symptom of another problem, depression,
job burnout, disagreements with management or whatever. They should address the cause, not the symptom. Another idea: Rather
than have categories of annual and sick leave, combine the two and provide leave, up to an annual limit, and allow unlimited
That way, workers can manage their leave in a self-interested way. The agency, in turn, will get a
better-motivated employee.Federal managers have more important work than jousting with employees about coughs and sneezes. ——— James
Stephens retired in 2009 after a 31-year federal career. He worked at the Navy, Treasury and Interior departments.
MOTION TO RECOMMIT
Mrs. BACHMANN. Mr. Speaker, I have a motion to recommit at the desk.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is the gentlewoman opposed to the bill?
Mrs. BACHMANN. Yes, in its current form.
Mr. SKELTON. Mr. Speaker, I reserve a point of order against the motion to recommit.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. The point of order is reserved.
The Clerk will report the motion to recommit.
The Clerk read as follows:
Mrs. Bachmann moves to recommit the bill back to the Committee on Armed Services with instructions to report the same back
to the House forthwith with the following amendment:
At the end of the bill, add the following new title:
SEC.X01. PAY FREEZE.
(a) In General.--Notwithstanding any other provision of law, for purposes of computing compensation for service
performed during fiscal year 2011 and the first quarter of fiscal year 2012, the rate of salary or basic pay for any office
or position within the civil service, as defined by section 2101 of title 5, United States Code, shall be deemed to be equal
to the rate of salary or basic pay payable for such office or position as of September 30, 2010.
(b) Congressional Pay Freeze.--Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no adjustment shall be made under section
601(a) of the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 (2 U.S.C. 31) (related to the Compensation of Members of Congress) during
fiscal year 2011 and the first quarter of fiscal year 2012.
(c) Rule for New Positions.--For purposes of subsection (a), the rate of salary or basic pay payable as of September
30, 2010, for any office or position which was not in existence on such date shall be deemed to be the rate of salary or basic
pay payable to individuals in comparable offices or positions on such date.
(d) Rule of Construction.--Nothing in this section shall be considered to apply with respect to any office or
position within the uniformed services, as defined by section 2101 of title 5, United States Code.
Mrs. BACHMANN (during the reading). Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent to dispense with the reading.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentlewoman from Minnesota?
Mr. SKELTON. I object.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Objection is heard.
The reading will continue.
The Clerk continued to read.
Mr. SKELTON (during the reading). Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent to dispense with the continuing of the reading.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from Missouri?
There was no objection.
POINT OF ORDER
Mr. SKELTON. Mr. Speaker, I make a point of order against this motion as it is not germane, and I insist on that point
Mrs. BACHMANN. Mr. Speaker, I ask to be heard on the point of order.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentlewoman from Minnesota is recognized.
Mrs. BACHMANN. Mr. Speaker, the motion to recommit proposes to add a new amendment to the bill freezing the rate of pay
for ourselves, Members of Congress, and for the non-uniformed Federal employees. The amendment relies on the definition of
civil service provided in title V of the United States Code which covers positions in the executive, the judicial, and the
The bill before us contains numerous and repeated references to title V of the United States Code, yet the gentleman makes
the point of order that this amendment is not germane to the bill.
Mr. Speaker, the bill before us includes provisions, such as the recently adopted Sarbanes amendment, that affect the policies
of all executive branch agencies, not just the Department of Defense. And on that basis, I believe that the Chair will find
the provisions of the amendment limiting pay for civilian executive branch employees germane. I also believe that the bill
is broad enough to cover judicial employees as well.
So, Mr. Speaker, that then leaves the question of ourselves, our pay, and that of non-uniformed Federal employees, legislative
branch employees. So, therefore, Mr. Speaker, I believe it would be improper for the Chair to use a point of order for the
purpose of protecting the employees of the legislative branch and for the purpose of protecting and shielding us Members of
Congress from the pay freeze herein being proposed. And it would otherwise be in order for employees of the executive branch.
And so, Mr. Speaker, I ask the question: Do we really want to go on record saying that the rules of this House should not
be used to shield our own Members of Congress' salaries and also those of the legislative salaries of the non-uniformed branch
from being fiscally irresponsible?
So, Mr. Speaker, I urge you not to sustain the point of order because when the average wage and benefit package of government
workers is double that of private employees, then we should not use--
Mr. SKELTON. Mr. Speaker, I insist on my point of order.
Mrs. BACHMANN. I am speaking on the point of order, Mr. Speaker.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentlewoman is reminded to confine her remarks to the point of order.
Mrs. BACHMANN. Yes, Mr. Speaker.
We should not use the arcane rules to somehow exempt ourselves as a Member of Congress from our own pay increases and that
of the non-uniformed Federal offices under the responsibility of tightening our belt.
Mr. SKELTON. Mr. Speaker, I insist on my point of order. It is not germane.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. The Chair will rule.
The gentleman from Missouri makes the point of order that the instructions proposed in the motion to recommit offered by
the gentlewoman from Minnesota are not germane. The bill broaches a range of subject matters related to both national defense
and to general operations of the Federal Government. This range of subject matters implicates the jurisdiction of several
The instructions proposed in the motion to recommit seek to prohibit certain future increases in pay for Members of Congress
and employees across the Federal Government. This prohibition, by addressing the legislative branch, involves the jurisdiction
of the Committee on House Administration.
One of the fundamental principles of germaneness is that an amendment must confine itself to matters within the jurisdiction
of the committees with jurisdiction over the pending text. To the Chair's knowledge, the underlying bill is devoid of subject
matter within the jurisdiction of the Committee on House Administration. Thus, the motion offered by the gentlewoman from
Minnesota is not germane. The point of order is sustained. The motion is not in order.
Mrs. BACHMANN. Mr. Speaker, I appeal the ruling of the Chair.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. The question is, Shall the decision of the Chair stand as the judgment of the House?
MOTION TO TABLE
Mr. SKELTON. Mr. Speaker, I move to table the appeal of the ruling of the Chair.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. The question is on the motion to lay the appeal on the table.
The question was taken; and the Speaker pro tempore announced that the ayes appeared to have it.
Mrs. BACHMANN. Mr. Speaker, I demand a recorded vote.
A recorded vote was ordered.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to clause 8 and clause 9 of rule XX, this 15-minute vote on tabling the appeal will be
followed by 5-minute votes on passage of H.R. 5136 and adoption of H. Res. 407, unless sooner followed by further proceedings
The vote was taken by electronic device, and there were--ayes 227, noes 183, not voting 21, as follows:
[Roll No. 334]
Prison inmate dies after assault
LEWISBURG — An inmate at the U.S. Federal Penitentiary at Lewisburg died Tuesday from injuries he suffered when
assaulted by another inmate two weeks ago.
Arnold Smith, 54, of Huntington Beach, Calif., was assaulted June 1 in a
housing unit and died at an unidentified Valley hospital Tuesday evening, according to a statement released by penitentiary
spokesman Andrew Ciolli.
The injuries Smith suffered were not disclosed and the cause of death is pending an autopsy.
FBI is investigating the assault, the statement said.
The press office at the penitentiary did not respond to calls
for further information Wednesday.
A spokeswoman from the Federal Bureau of Prisons in Washington, D.C., said the agency
did not have information regarding inmate deaths at specific prisons and referred questions to the Lewisburg Penitentiary.
was serving an eight-year, four-month sentence for conspiracy toprovide contraband to federal prisoners, attempt to obtain
and possesscontraband by a federal prisoner and conspiracy to distribute a controlledsubstance-heroin.
He had been
housed with about 1,200 prisoners at Lewisburg since Aug. 10.
The assault was one of three violent incidents involving
inmates in anine-day span in late May and early June.
Prison officials are usually tight-lipped about inmate assaults,
which areinvestigated by federal officials.
Local 148 President Dave Bartlett, who represents prison employees, saidthe
number of reported assaults were not unusual and inmates seem to getrestless and unruly during warmer months.
Supreme Court upholds search of a police officer's
By Dawn Lim06/17/10
The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled a search of a police officer's personal text
messages on a government-issued pager was constitutional. But it avoided tackling a thornier and broader question: What level
of privacy can public employees expect on work-provided communications devices?
In City of Ontario v. Quon, the high court unanimously found that, contrary to a U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit
ruling, a police department's search of a SWAT officer's texts was reasonable, because it "was motivated by a legitimate work-related
purpose, and because it was not excessive in scope."
At issue was the fact the City of Ontario, Calif., police department uncovered hundreds
of racy texts by Sgt. Jeff Quon, after it ordered transcripts of his messages to investigate whether monthly limits on texting
on department-issued pagers were too low.
The discovery prompted Quon to sue the city and police department for violating his
Fourth Amendment right of protection against unreasonable searches and the Stored
Communications Act, which prevents the unauthorized access of a facility through
which an electronic communication service is provided.
The Supreme Court decision, delivered by Justice Anthony Kennedy, noted, "As a law
enforcement officer, [Quon] would or should have known that his actions were likely to come under legal scrutiny, and that
this might entail an analysis of his on-the-job communications."
The city and the police department had a legitimate interest in ensuring they were
not paying for extensive personal communications, and -- at the other extreme -- that employees were not forced to pay for
work-related correspondence out of their own pockets, the court ruled.
Jim Dempsey, vice president for public policy at the civil liberties group Center
for Democracy and Technology, said, "The message to government employers is that the courts will continue to scrutinize employers'
actions for reasonableness, so supervisors have to be careful."
This is the first time the high court has tried to define Fourth Amendment rights
in the context of electronic communications.
While some advocates had hoped the courts would make a ruling that established broad
privacy rights for federal employees, the justices were unwilling to resolve the hot-button issue head on, instead acknowledging
it was uncertain how workplace norms would change in a time of rapid technological advances.
"Prudence counsels caution before the facts in this case are used to establish far-reaching
premises that define the existence and extent of privacy expectations of employees using employer-provided communication devices,"
the decision stated. In a dissent on only that section of the ruling, Justice Antonin Scalia hinted the court should have
made a broader ruling. "That we should hedge our bets by concocting case-specific standards or issuing opaque opinions --
is in my view indefensible," he wrote. "The-times-they-are-a-changin' is a feeble excuse for disregard of duty." Jared
Kaprove, a domestic surveillance counsel with the research group Electronic Privacy Information Center, said while he had
hoped a stronger framework would be established to reduce the intrusiveness of searches, "the narrowness of the ruling does
give cause for optimism."
Senate deals another blow to efforts to freeze federal
By Elizabeth Newell
After strong debate from both sides of the aisle, the Senate on Thursday rejected
a legislative provision that would have frozen federal pay and the size of the government workforce.
The chamber voted 57-41 to let stand a budgetary point of order against a GOP alternative
amendment to the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act. The point of order essentially blocks the amendment, offered
by Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., which sought to avoid $113 billion in spending, partly by freezing federal employees' salaries,
eliminating their bonuses and collecting their unpaid taxes. It also would have held the number of government workers at current
levels, and rescinded $38 billion in unobligated stimulus funds.
"The alternative amendment I proposed was a common sense step toward restoring fiscal
sanity to our nation's runaway spending and ballooning deficit," Thune said after the vote. "The defeat of my amendment was
a missed opportunity for Congress to prove they are serious about tackling our dangerous spending habits and $13 trillion
national debt. This amendment would have lowered taxes for families and small businesses as they struggle through these challenging
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell urged colleagues to vote in favor of the
"Senators will have a simple choice today. They can either vote to reduce the deficit,
or they can lock arms with the Democrat leadership and dig an even deeper hole of debt when most Americans think $13 trillion
is far too much already," the Kentucky lawmaker said. "If you're even remotely attuned to what Americans are asking of us,
this would be an easy choice." During debate of the amendment, Delaware Democratic Sen. Ted Kaufman chastised the Republicans,
saying they were using incorrect information on federal pay to scapegoat hardworking employees.
"Over the years, as I've witnessed countless acts of personal courage, devotion to
country and real sacrifice" by federal employees, Kaufman said. "I have also seen and heard such disheartening and baseless
attacks against those who choose to serve. The pending amendment is just the latest assault."
Kaufman said it has become too common for politicians to criticize Washington by
"defaming" civil servants.
"Now is not the time to talk about laying off federal workers, or freezing their
pay," he said. "We should be talking -- seriously and on this floor -- about how to invest in recruiting the next generation
of federal employees."
Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., on Tuesday called the proposed spending cuts "arbitrary
and restrictive." He also warned that the provision to cap the total number of federal employees would dramatically reduce
agencies' flexibility to make hiring decisions, forcing them to find an existing employee to fire if they needed to hire a
Treasury kicks off effort to go paperless with federal benefits
The Treasury Department is kicking off an initiative to move recipients of
federal benefits away from paper payments to direct deposit by March 2013, the Obama administration announced Monday.
New enrollees receiving a range of benefits administered by the Social Security Administration,
Veterans Affairs Department, Railroad Retirement Board and Office of Personnel Management will be required to receive payments
beginning March 1, 2011, either through direct deposit into a bank account or through a Treasury-issued debit card. All existing
check recipients will have to enroll to receive electronic payments by March 1, 2013.
the initiative in April, saying that moving all recipients of these benefits to electronic payments would save more than $300
million in the first five years. Currently, 85 percent of federal benefit recipients receive their payments electronically.
On Monday, Office of Management and Budget Director Peter R. Orszag said the shift
to electronic payments will continue to save $120 million each year after the first five, and he painted the initiative as
part of the administration's efforts to reduce wasteful spending in the federal government.
"This is a win-win for the American public, because it makes government more convenient
and cost-effective," Orszag wrote on the OMB blog.
"This is precisely the type of smart, streamlined improvement that this administration is committed to making across government
to boost efficiency and modernize how we do business. And OMB is working with agencies across the government to bring more
ideas like this one online in the months to come."
Orszag said not only will electronic payments be more convenient for many beneficiaries,
they also will eliminate the risk that checks will be lost, stolen, altered, or fraudulently signed, which happens more than
500,000 times a year with paper checks.
"The benefits of electronic transactions are well-documented," the Treasury announcement
stated. "Aside from the large cost savings, electronic transactions provide safety, convenience and control for payment recipients,
taxpayers and savings bond holders."
The department pledged that the shift would be accompanied by strengthened protections
for those who receive direct deposits. Treasury and the federal agencies that issue benefit payments have published a notice
of proposed rule-making to ensure that federal benefit payments that are protected from garnishment remain safeguarded after
being directly deposited into accounts.
Treasury also will issue a proposed rule reaffirming the long-standing policy that
federal benefits must be deposited directly into an account in the name of the recipient and not into an account of a third
party. The announcement stated that the rule will prevent entities such as payday lenders from establishing master accounts
to receive payments on behalf of multiple beneficiaries. It will allow for direct deposit into master accounts established
by reputable organizations such as nursing homes, as long as those organizations establish certain consumer protections.
Pay-freeze pitches are 'demoralizing,'
says Virginia Democrat
Proposals to freeze federal employees' pay might make good headlines in lawmakers'
home districts, but they are "demoralizing" to public servants, a Virginia Democrat said on Thursday.
also make it that much harder for the government to compete against the private sector for talent, said Rep. Gerry Connolly,
during a breakfast discussion in Washington hosted by Government Executive. Lawmakers should be more supportive of
civil servants and the critical work they do, he said. But he noted one of the things he has learned during his first term
in Congress is the further from the Beltway his colleagues' constituencies get, the harder it is to explain the complex issues
the federal workforce faces and build sympathy.
Connolly said he wants no part of the government-bashing that has emerged in the
run-up to the midterm elections. Skepticism of government is healthy, he said, but it should not get carried so far that citizens
lose faith in public institutions and stop participating in politics.
"I'm certainly not going to campaign on freezing civilian pay," Connolly said. "That's
a campaign pledge."
The freshman Democrat noted he is a strong advocate for giving civilians and military
members the same annual raise and is pleased President Obama returned to the concept of pay
parity in his second budget request. Connolly also said he supports the idea
of paying employees based on how well they perform their jobs, but that it could be a nightmare to implement across an organization
as large as the federal government.
Any performance-based pay system must be transparent and objective, and have safeguards
against abuse, Connolly said. Agencies could have separate systems, but the Obama administration should establish some baseline
parameters and expectations, he said.
Connolly said he is confident that Defense Department officials will be able to come
up with a performance management arrangement to replace the ill-fated National Security Personnel System, but added Congress
will help them if they don't. He said he supports measures to ensure employees moving from NSPS back to the General Schedule
aren't unintentionally penalized for the pay raises they received under NSPS, noting he is not entirely comfortable with the
idea of holding those employees back until the General Schedule catches up to them. He said he would consider a proposal adding
steps to GS pay grades to resolve the issue.
Other changes that could make government more attractive as an employer according
to Connolly include more robust telework and internship programs. He said he is optimistic the House will pass a bill to increase telework once it is brought
up under regular order requiring a simple majority vote, and noted a bill he introduced to strengthen
student internship programs (not to be confused with the Federal Career Intern
Program, which he has criticized), has been incorporated into the fiscal 2011 Defense authorization measure.
The Crunch in Federal Prisons
by Jessica Pupovac
More prisoners are doing federal time than ever, but Congress isn't allocating
enough funds to pay for them. Prison officials and reformers say a rethink of the system is long overdue.
states are responding to the nation's economic crisis by looking for ways to reduce their prison populations, the federal
prison system is heading in the opposite direction.
Last year, the 115 federal prisons added 7,000 inmates to their
rolls, making a total of 211,000 inmates in federal facilities as of early June-and the figure is expected to grow. The number
of federal criminal cases filed annually has increased from 69,575 in fiscal year 2005 to 76,655 in FY 2009.
matters more difficult, federal funding isn't keeping up with the extra burden.
At a U.S. Sentencing Commission hearing
in Washington, D.C. last week, U.S. Attorney for Atlanta Sally Quillian Yates said that federal facilities are currently operating
at 34 per cent above capacity. And that, she warned, will have "real and detrimental consequences for the safety of prisoners
and guards, effective prisoner reentry, and ultimately, public safety."
The White House appears to have recognized
the problem. President Barack Obama is seeking a $600 million increase in the prison system's budget for next year.
The proposal includes filling an additional 1,200 correctional staff positions and opening three new facilities.
the question is whether a budget-conscious Congress will go along. The prison system already eats up $6.8 billion, making
it the second-largest component of the Justice Department's budget, just below the FBI.
What accounts for the rise
in federal prison inmates?
While white-collar criminals like Bernard Madoff get a big share of news coverage, they
constitute only a small minority of the federal prison population. Slightly over half of current federal prisoners (52 percent)
are doing time for drug-related crimes. While the average sentence for drug trafficking has held steady in recent years (six
to seven years), it is a key factor contributing to the pressure on federal prisons. Another factor is the government's
crackdown on immigration violators, who account for another 11 percent of federal prisoners. An additional eight percent
are in for for violent crimes. Adding to the pressure, about 11 percent of federal prisoners require high-security facilities.
about federal prison overcrowding are shared by prison workers as well. Bryan Lowry, president of the American Federation
of Government Employees' Council of Prison Locals, which represents most of the 35,800 federal prison workers, says the crowding
contributes to an increasingly hostile environment for both inmates and those charged with watching over them.
the results can be fatal. In June 2008, correctional officer Jose Rivera, who had returned from serving in Iraq with
the U.S. Navy and had worked in the Atwater, California, federal maximum-security prison for 10 months, was stabbed to death
by two inmates. According to Lowry, if not for funding cuts and changes in Bureau of Prison policy, Rivera would have had
another officer working alongside him, as well as better equipment to fend off his attackers.
There have been 340 inmate-on-staff
assaults in federal prisons nationwide since Rivera's death.
"These aggressive acts by inmates against staff illustrate
a common reality facing staff daily at their workplace," Lowry told a House Appropriations subcommittee in March. "[Federal]
prisons have continued to be increasingly dangerous places to work, primarily because of serious correctional worker understaffing
and prison inmate overcrowding problems."
Meanwhile, the growing prisoner count, coupled with aging facilities, are
requiring more renovations and new construction every year.
Federal Bureau of Prisons Director Harley Lappin told Congress
this spring that the rising federal inmate population has made the funding pressure to pay for them relentless. In order
to combat overcrowding, he said, officials must make some hard choices. Either more prisons must be built, or there
should be movement towards reducing sentences, and "significantly" increasing community-based alternatives such as home confinement.
making those choices involves bringing together the multiplicity of players involved in the system: the prison bureau,
Congress (which determines the bureau's budget), and the U.S. Attorney General's office (which determines prosecution priorities).
Federal courts, meanwhile, are in charge of setting parameters for community supervision.
In other words, the solution
The escalating costs and rising population in the federal prison system are "fundamentally a political
problem," says Chris Innes, research and evaluation chief at the National Institute of Corrections, an arm of the prison bureau
that provides training and technical assistance to corrections agencies. "It's going in the opposite direction of the way
that [state] prisons are going, and that's a function of Congress, of the federal sentencing guidelines and the insulation
that the federal budget has, which is not a luxury at the state and local levels."
Many reformers believe that the
government needs to focus on the handling of drug cases, which account for the biggest single component of the federal prison
Most of those prisoners were subject to tough mandatory minimum sentences imposed by federal law, "which
make it easier for legislators to look tough on crime," says Julie Stewart, founder of Families against Mandatory
Stewart speaks from painful experience. She started her group nearly 20 years ago after her brother
was given a five-year sentence in federal court for growing marijuana in his garage in the state of Washington. If he
had been prosecuted in state court, the same crime would have earned him just two years, based on Washington's mandatory minimum
terms, she says.
Stewart's complaint is shared by a growing number of both conservative and liberal critics who believe
that punishments should be left to the discretion of judges.
But is anyone listening?
At a time of relatively
low crime rates, federal prison woes get little public attention. All the same, there are signs of activity. Congressional
appropriators have asked the National Institute of Corrections to report by September on evidence-based policy changes that
the prison bureau could make that would help "manage its offender population while reducing recidivism, improving public safety,
and reducing future costs to the American taxpayer."
In the meantime, Attorney General Eric Holder has assigned an
internal group in the Department of Justice to come up with a sweeping review of federal sentencing guidelines, taking into
account current available data on racial and ethnic disparities in sentencing, alternatives to incarceration, and recidivism
U.S. Attorney Yates told the sentencing commission that some of the group's recommendations will
be issued soon, but it was not clear that they would have a significant impact on the federal prison population.
more-extensive review could also occur if Congress approves legislation proposed by Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) to create a blue-ribbon
bipartisan commission to examine the nation's criminal justice system and recommend reforms. The bill was approved by the
Senate Judiciary Committee in January and awaits a vote on the Senate floor. Its companion bill was introduced in the House
FAMM's Stewart says one promising sign of action by Congress on sentencing is that in 2008, lawmakers passed
the Second Chance Act, which authorizes federal grants to government agencies and nonprofit organizations to help released
inmates with services including mentoring, finding housing and jobs, and substance abuse treatment. The law was enacted with
One thing federal officials might do is look at the states.
A report this spring from the
Pew Center on the States said that at least 22 states slashed their corrections budgets in 2009, many with reforms that have
signaled the potential for long-term savings.
Kansas, Arizona, and Illinois are using community-based alternatives
to incarceration, keeping some offenders out of the prison system and helping them get services they need to stay crime-free.
Colorado and Oregon increased the number of days inmates can chip off of their sentences as an incentive for good behavior.
Michigan, Idaho, California, and Mississippi are working to expedite their parole processes and move more inmates out of prison
and into increasingly comprehensive re-entry services.
While Congress and the Justice Department ponder the options,
the federal court system is making some changes of its own. With 45,000 federal inmates being released every year, some judges
are seeking ways to make sure they don't return to prison. The judges are operating re-entry courts, modeled after more than
2,100 drug courts that have proven effective around the nation over the past 20 years. The re-entry courts give judges an
option of mandating drug treatment and giving released convicts the option of making one last effort to get clean before they
are forced to return to prison.
According to the National Drug Court Institute, at least 30 federal re-entry courts
are currently in operation-most of them started within the past two years.
Federal courts are also working to educate
probation and parole officers about evidence-based practices that will help people stay crime-free once released. Dick Carelli,
spokesman for the U.S. Administrative Office of the United States Courts says that the effort is one of the judiciary's "highest
priorities in the last year or two."
Federal prison director Lappin says that if politicians want to spend less public
money running prisons, they should support changes like creating more community corrections programs to help prevent inmates
from committing new crimes.
But he noted that many politicians don't want such projects located in their districts.
this past year, you can't imagine the number of locations we have tried to place halfway houses, (and their answer has been)
'absolutely not,'" he said.
"Literally, people calling me saying, 'We don't want them back, Director, don't send them
here.' These are governors. These are congressmen and senators. These are community leaders. That's got to change."
Jessica Pupovac is a free-lance writer based in Chicago.
Filed under: Article, Federal Prisons, Prisons One Response to "The Crunch in Federal Prisons" 1. Federal
Prisons More Crowded, Less Funded; DOJ Lagging on Prison Rape Standards; and More Prison Law Blog says: "The
Crunch in Federal Prisons": The Crime Report notes that federal prisons are now at 34% above capacity, but Congress isn't
keeping up with the growth by allocating more funding. The federal prison system now holds over 200,000 inmates, i.e., more
than California. Slightly over half of federal prisoners are doing time for drug-related crimes, and most of them are subject
to tough mandatory minimum sentences.
Federal prisoners will no longer make helmets for U.S. troops after the Army recalled 44,000
helmets that were made by UNICOR –- also known as Federal Prison Industries.
Testing revealed that the helmets did
not meet the Army’s ballistic standards. The company has suspended
making helmets indefinitely, said Traci Billingsley, a spokeswoman for Federal Bureau of Prisons.
The decision to stop making the helmets was made a few months ago, she said on Wednesday.
“I can tell you that the decision to stop making helmets was prompted by an audit
by defense and an investigation by the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General,” she said in an e-mail.
The news comes a day after U.S. Rep. Christopher Carney, D-Pa., called for a review
of military contracts to Federal Prison Industries after the Army’s recall.
“Our military men and women deserve the best-made equipment and this recall further
demonstrates the pitfalls of trusting prisoners with the lives of our Soldiers and Marines,” Carney said in a news release
also questioned the Federal Prison Industries’ preferred status, which gave it the edge over private industry. Gentex
Corporation and BAE Systems, which make helmets, have large facilities employing hundreds of people in Carney’s district,
said his spokesman, Josh Drobnyk.
“We want to make sure that we protect the troops, first and foremost, and in
doing so we looked at what was being provided to the troops and who was providing it. ... The folks in our district were providing
a very good quality piece of equipment and FPI wasn’t making the grade,” Carney said Wednesday.
If Federal Prison Industries decides to make helmets again, Billingsley said, it will
no longer have “mandatory source preference.”
Carney called the company’s decision to stop making helmets a “victory.”
When asked if his stand against the company might be election-year posturing, he said, “The recall of the 44,000 [helmets]
had nothing to do with the election year.” He said he is considering whether Congress needs to review all products that
prisoners make for the military.
The helmet recall, prompted by a Justice Department probe, included about 20,000 issued
to Soldiers. Earlier this month, the Army acknowledged it had no idea where the helmets were.
“They could be on some Soldier’s head in Iraq or Afghanistan. They could
also be anywhere else in the world,” said Brig. Gen. Peter Fuller, head of Program Executive Office Soldier, the Army’s
center for advanced equipment.
Federal Prison Industries had two contracts with the Defense Logistics Agency, but
stop-work orders were issued in February and no helmets were issued to troops.
Dublin, California (CNN) -- It's a Monday morning, and Vince Cefalu just got into work at his more than $150,000-a-year-job
as a special agent of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
"It's 9:30. This is what I affectionately refer to as the cage," Cefalu, 51, said. "I am sitting here with an empty in
box and nothing to do. I'll keep you apprised."
CNN gave Cefalu a video camera to document what he does at work. For five days, he recorded himself inside his own office.
Cefalu said he was put in a job with little or nothing to do because he's the victim of retaliation by ATF managers. After
spending much of his nearly 24-year ATF career going undercover with motorcycle gangs and white supremacist groups, he now
oversees equipment inventory.
"I spent my whole life standing up to bullies," Cefalu told CNN in an interview to air on AC360 Wednesday night. "The bullies
right now are government bureaucrats who are abusing their oath and abusing the expectations of the public. I'm not leaving
until this is resolved."
Records show ATF supervisors claim he's had performance and discipline issues.
CNN has interviewed dozens of ATF supervisors, agents and employees around the country who said they've been demoted or
labeled troublemakers just for filing a complaint.
Later on the same Monday in which he brought a video camera to work, Cefalu was still having a slow day.
"I'm going to get something to eat, drag out the day a little bit, get some interaction with somebody ... Here I am, Safeway
sandwich, a little news on, catching up on current affairs. I've had a few phone calls, personal phone calls that I've made,
waiting for something to do."
At 3 p.m. that day, he records himself, saying "...watching a little news, surfing the net, reading some e-mails, doing
whatever, waiting for something to do. It's good money for not a lot of work, I guess. I'm being facetious, obviously."
He said ATF managers turned against him after he reported in 2005 what he said was an illegal wiretap plan in a racketeering
case. Records show ATF disputes his claims of the planned illegal wiretap. But he said that started a series of retaliatory
measures that ended up in 2007 with him in a desk job. His only negative evaluation, he said, was the year after he criticized
the planned wiretap.
"Had I not exposed some unethical, potentially criminal clearly outside policy conduct and actions by law enforcement that
I was working with, none of this would have happened," Cefalu said. "I would still be working in the field."
"I report to where they tell me to report to, and I sit for eight hours a day, and then I go home," he said. "I do nothing."
Cefalu filed a series of grievances and an age-discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission,
but an administrative judge ruled against him. His attorney is appealing that decision.
And over the past several years, he's also sent letters to members of Congress complaining about alleged fraud and mismanagement
at the ATF.
"It's almost like being in an abusive relationship, actually. It's almost like domestic violence, really," said Hiram Andrades,
a supervisor in ATF's Washington field office. "It's just you think things are going to improve with each director, you think
things will get better and improve, but they don't."
Andrades, who has a pending discrimination complaint, claims he was discriminated against because he can't get promoted.
"I can't get a promotion even if my life depended on it. If my life depended on it, I'd be dead by now, OK?" Andrades told
CNN. "This type of retaliation isn't good for the agency, it's distracting and it's not good for the American people. We need
to make better use of our tax dollars. We need to use it for the mission versus this kind of stuff. This is very distracting
and not good for anybody."
ATF has not had a permanent director since Carl Truscott resigned in 2006. The agency is being run by Kenneth Melson, who
has been deputy director since 2009.
In an interview with CNN, Melson said he was not permitted to discuss employee cases. But he insisted that he does not
tolerate any type of retaliation.
"When I first came into ATF -- when I went around and talked to people at headquarters and around the country -- my specific
and very emphatic message was that everyone was to be treated with respect and dignity and there would not be retaliation,"
Melson said. "I will not stand for retaliation against people who are abiding by our orders and reporting violations of law
"Every allegation of retaliation doesn't mean it's true," Melson said. "Every person you talked to who perceives it's retaliation
doesn't mean that it's retaliation, because there's been no adjudication of that. They haven't brought it to anybody to try
to resolve it. Be careful when you talk to someone about retaliation, because there are many misconceptions and parameters
of retaliation -- some of which are misinformed."
Asked about an employee who does virtually nothing all day, he said: "Well, I will certainly look into it and find out
why he is not doing anything all day." He added, "I will make sure that he puts in a full day's work, because everybody is
going to put in a full day's work at ATF."
Since fiscal 2005, ATF has paid a total of $1.6 million to settle discrimination claims, according to federal government
records. For the same time period, the FBI paid out $1.3 million and the DEA paid $331,755.
In addition, records show, ATF has more discrimination complaints filed per employee than the DEA or the FBI.
But Melson said complaints have gone down 40 percent since last year. And ATF officials added that the U.S. Marshals Service
and Bureau of Prisons have more complaints per employee.
John Taylor, a former ATF special agent based in Las Vegas, Nevada, said he was the target of retaliation after he wrote
an anonymous letter to the agency's inspector-general. In his 2006 letter, he alleged taxpayer money was being wasted on agents'
unnecessary trips to Las Vegas.
Taylor told CNN he was the target of an investigation into who wrote the letter.
"They asked me did I write the letter. My response was, 'I don't have to answer' ... they tried to charge me with lying."
He said he left ATF as soon as he was eligible to retire after 20 years, on December 31, 2009.
"I told my wife, I'm not going to live if I stay here," Taylor told CNN. "I was depressed. It was hell for me."
Another agent in the Las Vegas office, who claims he was suspected of writing the anonymous letter, also alleged he was
the target of retaliation by managers, according to records obtained by CNN. That agent was fired for failing to pass a firearms
test, but later got his job back.
ATF agents tell CNN that managers are taught how to handle discrimination complaints at supervisor meetings.
CNN obtained a statement from a current ATF supervisor who attended such a meeting in March. During that meeting, ATF associate
chief counsel Eleanor Loos gave a presentation to supervisors in the Atlanta field division.
According to the statement, Loos stated that "she considers the EEO process as the employees' 'bitching platform' and "employees
use this as a means to complain."
"Loos stated in a bragging manner that the EEO process can be dragged on and can take up to three years," the statement
Rafiq Ahmad, the ATF supervisor who wrote the statement, added: "This is not the first time that I have heard Eleanor Loos
making similar remarks. She has presented these same remarks in presentations in New Supervisor's training."
Melson told CNN he had not seen the statement. "But what I can tell you is that the direction that I have given people
is to make sure that we abide by the rules of the agency, that we abide by the process of the EEO, and the ombudsman. And
that's why we have the process in place," Melson said.
In a follow-up interview, Scot Thomasson, chief of ATF public affairs, told CNN that the bureau looked into the statements
made by Loos.
"What we found is those statements were being taken out of context," Thomasson said. "In addition, they
were being characterized in a slanted matter by the person who wrote it."
1. Iran Hostage Rescue Mission Remembered
April 25, 2010
The White House Commission on the National Moment
On Sunday, April 25, David Kolbe, Political and Legislative
Director of the Ironworkers (U.S. Army) represented the Union Veterans Council at the 30th Anniversary Remembrance Ceremony
Honoring Iran Hostage Rescue Mission Casualties: Arlington National
Cemetery, Section 46
A Remembrance Tribute honored the eight American servicemen
who died during the1980 attempt to free the 53 Americans held hostage in Iran . The ceremony marked the 30th Anniversary of
the tragedy. An all-volunteer military mission to rescue the American hostages was planned for April 25, 1980. On that day,
three Marines and five Air Force servicemen were killed when a helicopter and a transport plane collided on the ground during
a refueling operation in Iran ’s Great Salt Desert , after the ill-fated rescue mission had been aborted.
The eight servicemen honored are: MAJ Richard L. Bakke,
USAF; SGT John D. Harvey, USMC; George N. Holmes, Jr., USM; SSGT Dewey L. Johnson, USMC; MAJ Harold L. Lewis, Jr., USAF; TSG
Joel C. Mayo, USAF; MAJ Lyn K. McIntosh, USAF; CAPT Charles T. McMillan, USAF
During the Iran Rescue Mission, the eight Air Force
Special Operations/Air Commando crew members sacrificed their lives at Desert One Iran so that many of their comrades could
survive. After a Marine RH-53 helicopter collided with their C-130 aircraft, their individual actions contributed to the survival
of over 53 mission personnel trapped in the cabin of the aircraft.
2. Machinists Union (IAM)
Pledges Money for Upkeep of Vietnam Veterans Memorial Grounds
The AP (5/12, Zongker) reports the
International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, a labor union based in Maryland, is "pledging $50,000 for upkeep
of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial grounds on the National Mall." The union "also plans to restore a bronze sculpture of three
soldiers at the memorial."
The Tricare Affirmation Act, aimed at protecting
people in the military health care program from being penalized for not having private insurance, was signed into law Monday
by President Obama.
The new law provides a specific exemption
for Tricare beneficiaries and for nonappropriated-fund civilian employees of the Defense Department from a requirement of
the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that will require people without minimal health cover to either buy private
insurance or face a $750 penalty.
Tricare health insurance is specifically
defined by the law signed Monday as minimal essential coverage, which provides an exemption from the penalty.
Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., the House Armed
Services Committee chairman who opposed the national health care reform law but was a key sponsor of the Tricare Affirmation
Act, said he hopes this resolves questions by active-duty family members, retirees and their families about how national health
reform might affect them.
Signing the new law “reinforces that
military health care coverage will not be adversely affected by the health care reform law,” Skelton said.
Skelton’s committee will consider
legislation in May that would extend to Tricare beneficiaries one of the provisions of the new health reform law that allows
unmarried children to remain covered by a parent’s insurance until age 26. That legislation is expected to be included
in the 2011 defense authorization bill.
Salute Obama on Funding
Great article on President Obama keeping
his campaign promises to Veterans—IN THE WASHINGTON TIMES NO LESS!!
5. Obama Signs the Caregivers and Veterans
Omnibus Health Services Act
On May 5, 2010, President Obama signed an important
piece of legislation—the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act. As the President said:
“With this legislation, we’re expanding
mental health counseling and services for our veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq , including our National Guardsmen and Reservists.
We’re authorizing the VA to utilize hospitals and clinics outside the VA system to serve more wounded warriors with
traumatic brain injury. We’re increasing support to veterans in rural areas, with the transportation and housing they
need to reach VA hospitals and clinics. We’re expanding and improving health care for our women’s veterans,
to meet their unique needs, including maternity care for newborn children. And we’ll launch a pilot program to
provide child care for veterans receiving intensive medical care. We’re eliminating co-pays for veterans who are
catastrophically disabled. And we’re expanding support to homeless veterans, because in the United States of America
, no one who has served this nation in uniform should ever be living on the streets. Finally, this legislation marks
a major step forward in America ’s commitment to families and caregivers who tend to our wounded warriors every day.
They’re spouses like Sarah. They’re parents, once again caring for their sons and daughters. Sometimes
they’re children helping to take care of their mom or dad. These caregivers put their own lives on
hold, their own careers and dreams aside, to care for a loved one. They do it every day, often around the clock.
As Sarah can tell you, it’s hard physically and it’s hard emotionally. It’s certainly hard financially.
And these tireless caregivers shouldn’t have to do it alone. As of today, they’ll be getting more of the
help that they need.”
Please share this important news with your Veterans and Military Family networks. Today is a victory for all Veterans,
their loved ones and all who advocate on their behalf.
You can see the video of the President’s speech
6. First Lady Michelle Obama Announces Presidential
Directive on Military Families, May 12, 2010
WASHINGTON, DC – First Lady Michelle Obama today announced that President Obama has directed the National Security
Staff to lead a new 90-day review to develop a coordinated Federal government-wide approach to supporting and engaging military
families. Building on work and expertise by the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs, the
review will involve nearly twenty federal agencies as well as the White House Domestic Policy and National Economic Councils
and the Offices of the Vice President, the First Lady, and Dr. Biden.
Specifically, the review will:
Set strategic military family priorities for the next
ten years and identify key military family concerns and challenges;
Review a cross section of public and private programs
to identify the most promising ideas and programs that positively support military families;
Develop options for departments to integrate military
family matters into their strategic and budgetary priorities;
Examine opportunities for Federal policies and programs
to stimulate new and support existing state and local efforts achieving military family readiness goals and meeting military
Identify opportunities to leverage the skills and
experience of military family members in national and community life; and
Strengthen existing feedback mechanisms for military
families to voice their concerns and views on the effectiveness and future direction of relevant Federal programs and policies.
The review builds on the Obama administration’s
efforts to forge an enduring national commitment to support and engage military families. These combined national efforts
will help ensure that:
The United States military continues to recruit and
retain the highest-caliber volunteers contributing to the Nation’s security;
Service members can have strong family lives while
maintaining the highest state of readiness and focus on their military responsibilities;
Civilian family members can fulfill their own potential
while supporting service members; and
The general population better understands military
families and seeks more opportunities to support military families.
“With just one percent of our population—our
troops—doing 100 percent of the fighting our military families are being tested like never before,” said First
Lady Michelle Obama. “This government wide review will bring together the resources of the federal government,
identify new opportunities across the public and private sectors, and lay the foundation for a coordinated approach to supporting
and engaging military families for years to come.”
The First Lady made the announcement during an address
to the National Military Family Association’s summit – When Parents Deploy: Understanding the Experiences
of Military Children and Spouses. Mrs. Obama addressed the state of America ’s military families today, outlined
a vision of the nation supporting them over the long-term, and how, as a country, all segments of society can work together
to turn that vision into a reality. The First Lady, along with Dr. Jill Biden, uses their platform to support military
Championing a national call to action that both addresses
the unique challenges facing military families and recognizes and taps their skills, strength and commitment to service;
Building stronger civilian-military community ties;
Engaging and highlighting the service and sacrifice
of military families to ensure their voices are heard inside the administration.
The Winter Haven (FL) News Chief (5/9, 10K) reports, "The Polk County Stand Down event for veterans and homeless veterans will be held Saturday, May 15, Armed
Forces Day, at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, to provide all available services for veterans at one central location."
There, "services will be provided by the Veterans Administration, Polk Veterans Council, Polk County Veterans Services, Social
Security Administration, Blind Vets Association, Department of Health, Florida Department of Veterans Affairs, Florida Rural
Legal Services, Paralyzed Veterans, Peace River, Polk Health care Plan, Polk Works, Tampa Crossroad, Tri-County and local
8. Union Veterans Council Supports Mark
Critz for Congress
This week the Union Veterans Council will make its
first foray into politics this year.
We polled the UVC officers and Executive Committee,
and we have unanimous support for backing Mark Critz in the 12th Congressional District in Pennsylvania to fill
the seat held by John Murtha in a special election next Tuesday. Mark Critz was Murtha's Chief of Staff for many years
and carries with him Murtha's dedication to veterans. You can find out more about his positions on veterans issues on
his website. Critz also has the backing of the Pennsylvanial AFL-CIO and many affiliates. http://www.critzforcongress.com/home.
Thursday, May 13, in Johnstown , PA , Phil Glover of
AFGE will represent the UVC in an event with the candidate and other area veterans in a roundtable discussion when he will
make the announcement of our support for Critz.
9. Book Recommendation: Sebastian Junger's
Book review by Philip Caputo
Sunday, May 9, 2010, Washington
By Sebastian Junger
The ambitiousness of Sebastian Junger's "War" is summed up in its title. It's a story about war that is much more than a war story.
As a correspondent for Vanity Fair magazine, Junger made five trips to
Afghanistan 's Korengal Valley in 2007 and 2008, embedded with the 2nd Platoon, Battle Company of the storied 173rd Airborne
Brigade. "War" is the result of those journeys into a world so alien to civilians it might as well be a planet in some distant
The paratroopers' mission was to deny the valley to Taliban insurgents,
and it proved difficult and costly. Junger and his photographer, Tim Hetherington, arrived utterly unprepared for the level
of violence they experienced. The bloodshed was futile, it turns out. Last month, U.S. troops were withdrawn from the Korengal, leaving it to the insurgents. I was reminded of the battle of Hamburger Hill in Vietnam , when a battalion from the 101st
Airborne Division took heavy casualties in seizing the hill from the North Vietnamese army and then was ordered to abandon
Most of what we read and hear about the conflict in Afghanistan focuses
on politics and strategy. Junger makes plain that he isn't interested in such abstractions but in the men we've sent far away
to do our dirty work. I say "men" because this book takes place among the hyper-male front-line infantry, where women are
prohibited from serving.
With his narrative gifts and vivid prose -- as free, thank God, of literary
posturing as it is of war-correspondent chest-thumping -- Junger masterfully chronicles the platoon's 15-month tour of duty.
But what elevates "War" out of its particular time and place are the author's meditations on the minds and emotions of the
soldiers with whom he has shared hardships, dangers and spells of boredom so intense that everyone sits around wishing to
hell something would happen (and wishes to God it was over when, inevitably, it does).
"War" is divided into three long sections: "Fear," "Killing" and "Love."
In each, Junger makes us see the terror, monotony, misery, comradeship and lunatic excitement that have been elements of all
wars since, say, the siege of Troy . He thus becomes a kind of 21st-century battle singer, narrating the deeds and misdeeds
of his heroes while explaining what makes them do what they do. These reflections, drawing on his wide-ranging research into
military history, biology and psychology as well as on his personal experiences, overreach once or twice. Otherwise, it's
the best writing I've seen on the subject since J. Glenn Gray's 1959 classic, "The Warriors: Reflections on Men in Battle
An eight-man squad caught in a Taliban ambush suffers 100 percent casualties.
Their sergeant is mortally wounded. A team leader named Sal Giunta takes over and saves the unit from annihilation. The action
appears chaotic but possesses an underlying choreography that requires each man to make "decisions based not on what's best
for him, but on what's best for the group," Junger writes. "If everyone does that, most of the group survives. If no
one does, most of the group dies. That, in essence, is combat."
He points out that while all animals defend their young and some their
mates, only human beings are willing to die for a cause. And for these paratroopers, as for most warriors, their most cherished
cause, maybe their only one, is each other. It is understood that each soldier will give his life for his comrades, if necessary.
Here is a paradox of war: Comradeship redeems it from becoming total
savagery; yet that sense of brotherhood, the fierce protectiveness it arouses, can make men savage -- or seem so. After a
prolonged firefight, a Taliban guerrilla whose leg has been blown off is seen crawling on a mountain slope. When he stops
moving and scouts report that he has died, the troops cheer. Their joy troubles Junger. "It seemed," he observes, "like I
either had to radically reunderstand the men on the hilltop or I had to acknowledge the power of a place like this to change
He has to do a little of both when a soldier named Steiner explains that
he and his comrades weren't being senselessly sadistic. What tore that wild whoop from their throats was knowing that "this
guy could have murdered your friend . . . we just stopped someone from killing us. . . . That's where the fiesta comes in."
Junger's sketches of the men are deft, his ear for their quirky speech
(aided by video recordings) spot on. A partial platoon roster includes Jones, a former drug dealer who joined the Army to
avoid being killed on the streets; Moreno, an ex-prizefighter and prison guard from Texas; Murphy, a rich kid who went to
etiquette school and wonders which side of the plate the sherbet spoon goes on; the supremely weird Sgt. Buno, a man of indeterminate
ethnicity who wanders around listening to his iPod and muttering bizarre things (asked where he'd spent one night, he replies
that he was in a village "killing werewolves").
The main character, so to speak, is Brendan O'Byrne. Pugnacious and hard-drinking,
O'Byrne is very tough -- he humps up mountains carrying a machine gun as heavy as a jackhammer -- but also gifted with an
ability to articulate thoughts his comrades can't or won't. He confesses to Junger that he prayed only once in Afghanistan
, for a dying medic to live. "But God, Allah, Jehovah, Zeus . . . wasn't in that valley," he says. "Combat is the devil's
game. . . . That's why our prayers weren't answered: the only one listening was Satan."
Junger thinks of O'Byrne as the platoon's collective mind and voice --
"a way to understand a group of men who I don't think entirely understood themselves." This splendid book should help the
rest of us understand them -- and war itself -- a little better.
Philip Caputo is the author of
"A Rumor of War" and, most recently, "Crossers," a novel.
4 staffers hurt in brawl at LA federal jail
LOS ANGELES—Authorities say four staffers at a federal detention center
in downtown Los Angeles had minor injuries after a brawl involving about 10 inmates.
Steve Gagliardi, a case management coordinator at the Metropolitan Detention Center, says two of the
staff members were sent to a hospital as a precaution after the Wednesday night melee.
Gagliardi says the security of the institution was never in jeopardy.
There were no reports of injured inmates.
Los Angeles police officers were called to the scene to assist after the fight broke out at about 7
p.m. They shut down the street outside the jail, but it was soon reopened.
The Bureau of Prisons operates the facility, where men and women charged with federal crimes are held,
including immigration violators awaiting deportation.
LAPD responds to report of disturbance at federal detention
center downtown [Updated]
Los Angeles police cars on Wednesday night were stationed outside the federal Metropolitan Detention Center, where
a reported disturbance had broken out inside.
The nature of the disturbance was unclear, the Los Angeles Police Department
said. A dispatcher at the downtown center declined to comment.
Several LAPD patrol cars were stationed near the
500 block of Alameda Street securing a perimeter around the detention center.
Operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the facility houses both male and female inmates.
[Updated 10:10 p.m.: Federal authorities have the situation under control, and LAPD units have been released,
Labor-management council delays reporting on bargaining
By Elizabeth Newell
The National Council on Federal Labor-Management Relations will delay its deadline
by 30 days to report to President Obama on how to implement pilot programs that would require agencies and unions to bargain
over more issues.
"I think we have to admit that we don't have a strong proposal to take back to the
president at this time," said John Berry, co-chairman of the council, during a meeting on Wednesday. "But we believe we're
making serious progress and have a good faith proposal and the clear majority of the federal government coming to the table
and saying we're willing to work on this issue."
The White House asked the council to report by May 8 on recommendations for implementing
pilot programs to test bargaining over issues not normally subject to negotiation in the federal sector. These so-called (b)(1)
bargaining issues include the number and qualifications of employees assigned to work on projects, technology involved and
work methods, among other topics.
Berry, along with co-chairman Jeffrey Zients, Office of Management and Budget deputy
director for management, recommended the council delay reporting to the president by 30 days and, in the meantime, form a
work group to develop guidance on creating the pilot programs.
Berry said four of the five departments with the largest union representation have
committed to working with the council on the bargaining pilots and their representatives will participate on the team.
"Now is the time to actively involve our union partners at the table to bring back
to this council an approach forward on the pilot that we could undertake within the next 30 days," he said.
A number of union representatives, including National Treasury Employees Union President
Colleen Kelley, Federal Education Association Executive Director H.T. Nguyen, and National Federation of Federal Employees
President William Dougan, agreed to represent labor in the discussions.
At the meeting, the council also debated the findings of a work group tasked with
providing guidance on establishing labor-management forums at various levels within agencies. The group outlined two models
for agencies to use, avoiding a one-size-fits-all recommendation.
Under the first model, agencies would create a forum at the departmental level with
unions that have consultation rights with them at that level. Additional forums could then be created at the component level
for agencies with consultation rights within those agencies or offices.
According to the second model, where there are no unions with department-level recognition,
agencies would create forums at lower levels, including any union with consultation rights within that smaller organization.
Ad hoc labor-management work groups then would be established as needed to address departmentwide issues.
Veterans Affairs Department Deputy Secretary Scott Gould called the work group's
recommendations a "very sensible final determination," but they would like to strengthen the language for some of the recommendations
to clarify that the council encouraged certain actions, rather than just permit them.
Bill Bransford, general counsel for the Senior Executives Association, and Darryl
Perkinson of the Federal Managers Association, expressed their desire to have managers associations included in these agency-level
forums. Jane Holl Lute, Homeland Security deputy secretary, said it needs to be clear whether the managers associations' representatives
are speaking as employees or as management.
"Management speaks for management," Lute said. "There can't be two management voices
at the table."
Gould, a member of the work group, and the rest of the council agreed to review and
fine-tune the language of the recommendations and represent them at the council's next meeting in June.
Four guards hurt in L.A. jail disturbance
LOS ANGELES, May 6 (UPI) -- A brawl that broke out in the Los Angeles federal Metropolitan Detention Center injured four
guards before it was brought under control, U.S. officials said.
Two of the guards were treated at a hospital after Wednesday night's disturbance at the facility.
Los Angeles police responded to the jail to help secure the perimeter while the center's staff quelled the disturbance,
the Los Angeles Times said.
It was not known what caused the melee. The MDC, a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility, houses more than 1,000 male and female
Federal benefits payments will go exclusively electronic by 2013, the Treasury Department
announced on Monday.
Treasury's decision applies to all recipients of Social Security, Supplemental Security
Income, Veterans Affairs, Railroad Retirement and Office of Personnel Management benefits. Enrollees will be able to choose
between direct deposits and balances added to Treasury debit cards. All new program enrollees will receive their benefits
electronically starting on March 1, 2011, and current recipients will make the transition by March 1, 2013.
Treasury said 85 percent of federal benefits recipients already are receiving electronic
payments. By moving the remaining 15 percent off paper, the government will save $300 million over five years, the department
Matt Biggs, legislative director for the International Federation of Professional
and Technical Engineers, praised the decision as a cost-saving and environmental measure. The debit cards program, he said,
is a good alternative for beneficiaries who might not have access to conventional bank accounts. But he suggested that electronic
enrollment should be a default, rather than the only option.
"There is still some justifiable concern from veterans and others that should not
be ignored," Biggs said. "While this is clearly the right time to make the transition, the government should also allow beneficiaries
the option to continue to receive their benefits in a paper form."
In a Federal Register notice posted on Monday, OPM also proposed a number
of changes to the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.
Open season -- the time when federal employees can change their FEHBP enrollments
-- runs from the beginning of the second full work week of November to the end of the second full work week of December. OPM
proposed switching it to run from Nov. 1 to Nov. 30.
"This will simplify the annual announcement of the time period for open season and
allow agencies and employees to better plan for the enrollment opportunity since they will know well in advance when it will
occur each year," the agency said in the notice.
In addition, OPM suggested changes to the kinds of plans health care companies can
offer through FEHBP. Right now, insurers can offer two regular options and one high-deductible plan, in which enrollees pay
most of their costs out of pocket in exchange for low premiums. OPM proposed allowing companies to choose between offering
two plans and a high-deductible option, or three regular plans.
Deadline for burning accumulated comp time is fast approaching
By Amelia Gruber
The Office of Personnel Management on Tuesday reminded agencies that the clock
is ticking on a three-year grace period for a rule that bars federal employees from stockpiling compensatory time off.
Employees have until May 22 to use up comp time they accumulated in lieu of overtime
pay before the March 2007 policy went into effect. That regulation required workers to use comp time within 26 pay periods. But it applied only to comp
time earned after May 14, 2007. Employees had three years to burn time they'd gathered previously.
If employees fail to use their grandfathered time off by May 22, then they either
will receive pay for the unused hours, or they will be forced to forfeit them, according to the March 30 memorandum from OPM Director John Berry. There will be no exceptions, he said.
Employees covered by the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act are entitled to receive pay
for unused comp time. Those exempt from the law can be paid or forced to forfeit the time, depending on their agencies' internal
policies. Agencies, however, must pay employees who cannot use the time due to certain circumstances beyond their control.
annual leave investment bill unveiled
By Alex M. Parker
Leaders of a House oversight subcommittee have officially introduced a bill
that would allow federal employees to invest the cash value of unused annual leave in their Thrift Savings Plan retirement
The bill (H.R. 4865), sponsored by Reps. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., and Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, would
let employees roll over the value of their leftover leave as long as it did not push them above the cap on annual retirement
contributions of $16,500 for employees younger than 50 and $22,000 for those who are 50 or older.
The National Treasury Employees Union praised the measure.
"Many federal employees carry over the maximum amount of 240 hours of annual
leave on a yearly basis, and this legislation could significantly boost their TSP accounts," NTEU President Colleen Kelley
The bill grew out of a September 2009 pledge from President Obama to make
it easier for Americans to save money. One idea was to let workers roll leftover leave into retirement savings, but the Federal
Thrift Retirement Board found that current law precludes this option for feds.
The Lynch-Chaffetz bill would remove that restriction. The legislation
has been referred to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Lynch and Chaffetz lead the panel's Subcommittee
on the Federal Workforce, Postal Service and the District of Columbia.
Pushing For Possible Prison
PRINCESS ANNE, Md. - It's an economic boost that Somerset
County could use, but there are no guarantees it will happen.
Resident Roger Daugherty said, "It'll provide ongoing
jobs in the future. A lot of construction monies going on in the county, so I don't think it can be bad."
At a public hearing Wednesday night, there were mostly
praises and arguments for a possible prison in Princess Anne. The Federal Bureau of Prisons is deciding between this location
and another one in Winton, North Carolina.
The project would bring less than 1,400 low-security
inmates from Washington D.C., in addition to hundreds of jobs.
Michael Pelletier is the Senior Vice-President of Community
Education Centers, the proposed contractor for the project in Princess Anne, and he touts the economic benefits. He explained,
"During construction, for example, there's another 245 to 300 jobs, the majority of are all hired locally... In terms of goods
and services you're talking $50 million coming back to the surrounding communities."
And these are numbers this community says they can't
ignore. Many came to the public hearing with comments in favor of their area. One resident said, "In terms of us being a capable
workforce, you need only to look to ECI to see the successful effort Somerset County has had."
State delegate Jim Mathias said, "What we will bring
to this is the ability to get this job done."
In response to safety concerns, officials say the inmates
would not be released into the community. They would be first transferred to another federal facility and released there.
Those opposed to the proposal say they were concerned
the facility would become a FEMA camp, or internment camp.
The Bureau will conclude a public comment period on
March 8. Then they will publish a final environmental impact statement that will be available to the public for 30 days. Then
it will be left to the discretion of the Bureau of Federal Prisons to discern when they will select a location. No decision
will be made until mid-May at the earliest.
Federal prison warden indicted on 6 charges
RIVERSIDE, Calif.—The warden of a federal prison in San Bernardino County is accused of disclosing
confidential information about ongoing criminal investigations and lying to investigators.
U.S. attorney's office spokesman Thom Mrozek says Scott Holencik was charged Wednesday in a six-count
indictment in federal court in Riverside.
Holencik is warden of a Federal Bureau of Prisons facility in Adelanto.
He is charged with making false statements to investigators last year in connection with a probe into Internet postings
that disclosed confidential information about criminal investigations at the prison.
Prosecutors say Holencik faces a maximum 14 years in federal prison if convicted of all charges.
He's scheduled to be arraigned on April 21.
GEO Prison Decision
It is a disappointing
decision for supporters of a northern Michigan prison.
The GEO Group prison will stay closed after investing millions
of dollars into renovations, aimed at attracting Federal prisoners.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons says they had to
cancel the contract with the GEO prison in Lake County. The prison closed in 2005, leaving hundreds of people without jobs.
Lake County Chamber of Commerce says it's disappointing news, but they will stand behind GEO and hopes the future holds another
Northern Michigan's News Leader is working to bring you continuing coverage of the decision and it's
Shuttered Baldwin Prison Will Not Reopen
A private prison facility shuttered in Baldwin in 2005 will not
be reopening to house illegal immigrants. That dashes hopes of an influx of hundreds of jobs to the community, where one-in-five
workers are unemployed.
The Florida-based company that owns the prison has been expanding
its facility, in hopes of getting a contract with the federal Bureau of Prisons. But the bureau announced this week it has
no money to open another facility, even though it does need more beds.
Lake County Chamber of Commerce President Sandy Crandall says,
with all the building activity at the prison site, the community had been optimistic.
"It's a lot of money to invest and I'm sure they are considering
a Plan B at some point," she says. "And we'll just have to be patient as to what that is, and support them in that endeavor."
The facility was built by a company now known as The GEO Group
during the Engler years to house Michigan's serious young offenders. It was placed in Baldwin to boost the economy of a region
that has some of the highest poverty and unemployment rates in Michigan. It was closed in budget cuts under Governor Granholm
in 2005. And when prison workers left, Crandall says there was a ripple effect.
"That means no gas, no groceries, no shopping at the local stores,"
she says." People who've had a job in the area, that would transfer in, would maybe sometimes want to spill over into our
recreation, that kind of halted. That's the effect I felt."
In a written statement the owner, The GEO Group, says it will continue
to market the detention center throughout the country.
White House reconsiders holding terror trials in civilian court
Suspected Sept. 11 plotters may be tried before military tribunals after all, administration
officials say. Holding the trials in civilian court is deemed 'politically untenable.'
Reporting from Washington — The White House is considering an end to its effort to prosecute the suspected Sept.
11 plotters in a civilian court and may send them instead before military tribunals, in an apparent retreat from President
Obama's pledge to overhaul the Bush administration's detention policies.
Last year, the Obama administration announced it would try Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and others in federal court in New York.
That step came after Obama overhauled interrogation policies and ordered the shutdown of the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo
But safety concerns about the trial have grown, and support for holding the trial in New York has eroded.
"It is politically untenable," said one official, speaking on condition of anonymity because a decision had not been made.
"No place wants to hold a trial."
A return to military commissions, as the tribunals are known, would be a major concession to Republicans. And administration
officials appear to be using the potential shift as a down payment on a political deal to speed the closure of the Guantanamo
prison by allowing the federal government to purchase an Illinois prison to transfer detainees.
A formal recommendation has not yet been made to Obama, and an administration official said a decision remains weeks away.
Still, the idea, first reported in the Washington Post, represents a trial balloon to test how the administration's reversal
would be received by liberals and conservatives.
Though several Republicans endorsed the plan to try the Sept. 11 suspects in military commissions, few seemed convinced
Friday that Guantanamo should close.
Liberal groups reacted angrily, seeing the potential about-face as a betrayal of the president's campaign promise and an
unwelcome endorsement of Bush administration practices. They said the Obama administration would be closing Guantanamo only
to re-create the same problematic situation on U.S. soil.
"The world wasn't clamoring to close Guantanamo because it was built on some sacred Indian burial ground," said Tom Malinowski
of Human Rights Watch. "It was clamoring to close Gitmo because it stood for the militarization of justice in America and
indefinite detention without charge. Keeping all of that preserves the essence of what people were objecting to at Gitmo."
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has been negotiating with the White House, including with Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, on
a way to close Guantanamo but ensure that the government had the legal authority to hold detainees without trial. As part
of his compromise, Graham had proposed moving several of the civilian trials to military commissions.
Graham said the potential shift by the White House was a "good start." "It would give us a chance to close Guantanamo Bay
safely," Graham said on Fox News.
Charles Stimson, a former Pentagon detention official, said conservatives should embrace Graham's proposal.
"You are going to see national security hawks like me get out in front and support the administration and try to convince
skeptics, members of the conservative caucus, that they need to get behind this," Stimson said.
But not all Republicans may be amenable to a deal. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) praised the prospect
of a military tribunal trial for Mohammed, but continued to assert that Guantanamo should remain open, despite the controversy
it has generated around the world.
He argued that closing Guantanamo and opening a long-term detention facility within the United States would not neutralize
international objections to the U.S. treatment of terrorism suspects.
At least on that point, human rights groups who opposed Bush administration detention policies agreed with Obama's critics.
"Closing Guantanamo and moving the military commissions to the United States doesn't really close the concept of Guantanamo,"
said William Nash, a retired Army major general. "This bastardized version of justice known as military commissions . . .
is leaving the job undone."
Nash was among military officers who appeared with Obama on his second day in office last year as the new president signed
an executive order to close Guantanamo.
"It is times like this, when things are difficult, that we need the president to stand up and do the right thing, and the
smart thing, the thing that will protect our troops," said John Hudson, a retired vice admiral and former Navy judge advocate
Malinowski of Human Rights Watch said abandoning trials in civilian court will not prevent the political headaches of trying
to close Guantanamo, but will sap the benefits of shuttering the prison.
It would also make the administration look weak in Washington, Malinowski said. "The political cost is catastrophic," he
said. "It will invite endless bullying on national security. It is not the way to look strong."
But some Democrats hoped the call to move Mohammed to military court would soften opposition to closing Guantanamo and
moving detainees to the prison in Illinois. Before such a transfer could take place, Congress would have to give its stamp
Under the plan, the Bureau of Prisons would purchase the near-empty state prison in Thomson, Ill., to house both federal
inmates as well as some of the detainees displaced by the closure of Guantanamo.
It would take time to upgrade the Thomson prison before any military commission trial could be held there. The prison needs
security upgrades and construction of a trial facility, changes that would take until next spring, by some estimates.
Proposal for Lake City prison put on hold
A proposal to build a federal prison in Lake City has been
put on hold.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, the plan involved
constructing a 2,500 bed facility east of the Lake City Municipal Airport off U.S. 90. The primary purpose of the prison would
have been holding inmates from other countries until they could be deported. Federal officials had proposed having the prison
developed and operated by a private company under a federal contract.
The bureau held two public hearings on the proposal a year
ago and had begun the initial bidding process. However, companies that were expected to submit bids were notified a week ago
that the $65 million construction project was no longer in the bureau's budget for this year. The prison was expected to create
250 full-time jobs with a $10 million annual payroll.
The companies were also notified that they could rebid on
the project if funding becomes available for it.
Budget Request for Thomson Prison Doesn’t Mention Terrorists
The Justice Department’s fiscal 2011 budget request asks for funding to buy the Thomson Correctional Center in Illinois,
but the proposal sent to Congress leaves out one key piece: it does not mention that the facility would be used to house accused
terrorists currently held at Guantanamo Bay.
Instead, the Bureau of Prisons’ request seeks $170 million to buy and renovate the Thomson, Ill., prison because of inmate crowding conditions at high security facilities.
“Inmate crowding, especially at high security levels, is at maximum manageable proportions and additional bed space
is crucial to provide some relief for staff and inmates,” the request states. “Inmate crowding that is not addressed
will continue to endanger staff, inmates, and the community.”
According to a DOJ spokeswoman, the department’s fiscal 2011 budget also requests an additional $67 million to upgrade the facility to a high security federal penitentiary. In all, the DOJ is seeking $237 million for use on the facility.
The Bureau of Prison’s budget proposal says that high security facilities are operating at 51 percent over capacity
and that the trend is “projected to worsen in future years, as the population continues to outpace capacity.”
As of May 2009, according to the request, 18,630 high security inmates — or 93 percent of all high security population
in federal facilities — were double bunked. Under the BOP standards, no more than 25 percent of high security inmates
should be double bunked. The Thomson facility would provide an additional 1,600 high security cells.
The request does mention that prisons have taken on significantly greater risks because of several high-profile terrorists
already housed in the federal prison system including former al Qaeda operative Zacarias Moussaoui, Oklahoma
City bomber Terry Nichols and “shoe bomber” Richard Reid, among others.
The final sale of the prison still has several hurdles to overcome. In Illinois, the state legislature voted last month to require the governor to obtain approval from the legislature before selling state properties worth more than
$1 million — a new requirement that would apply to the state-owned Thomson facility.
For their part, federal officials have tried to focus on the benefits the purchase would bring to the local community.
Harley Lappin, director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons told The Christian Monitor that of the 850 to 900 staff positions at the prison, 60 percent would be local. Lappin estimated that 1,200 to 1,700 private-sector
jobs will be created as a result of prison activity – all indirect ways the prison will create jobs and reduce unemployment.
Setback for grieving family: Mother of slain correctional officer struggling with legal battle
The U.S. Department of Justice has denied a Merced family's $100
million administrative claim against the Federal Bureau of Prisons and several of its employees over the 2008 death of correctional
officer Jose Rivera, at the hands of two inmates.
An administrative claim is a precursor to a lawsuit. The claim gives the government a chance to address a
complaint and make reparations.
The claim was denied because of missing documentation, according to a letter from Harlan W. Penn, regional
counsel for the Department of Justice. The letter claims Mark Peacock, a Newport Beach-based attorney for Terry Rivera on
behalf of her son, didn't submit documentation verifying his authority to represent the Rivera family or verifying Terry Rivera's
authority to represent her son's estate.
Peacock was unavailable for comment Wednesday but he said earlier this week his firm is finishing work on
a federal lawsuit he intends to file soon on behalf of the Riveras.
Terry Rivera said she had not known the reason for the denial.
"He's a very good lawyer, I'm just thinking that they are just giving us the runaround," Rivera said.
Tears still creep up on Rivera as she talks about her son.
"It's not about the money. It's just about justice and for them to see the tragedy that has happened to this
family. We don't want it to happen to anyone else," she said.
Jose Rivera, 22, had worked at U.S. Penitentiary Atwater for 10 months when he was attacked and stabbed to
death about a half-hour before the end of his shift while locking down inmates into their cells.
In the many months since the attack several disturbing details about the case have been unearthed, including
that Jose Rivera and other correctional officers at the time did not have access to stab-resistant vests and could not carry
nonlethal weapons such as pepper spray or batons.
Jose Rivera was alone, as was policy, with around 100 inmates. His attackers, James Leon Guerrero and Joseph
Cabrera Sablan, were drunk at the time of the stabbing, according to investigators.
Both of his attackers had previous records of assaulting correctional officers. The men knew each other and
when Guerrero was transferred to USP Atwater the day before the attack, one penitentiary official warned the two should not
be in the same unit together. According to an FBI investigation, that official was told by a co-worker to put Guerrero with
Sablan instead of a higher-security unit.
When Jose Rivera triggered his body alarm during the attack, several of the first responders did not have
keys to get into the unit. The attackers continued to stab him -- a total of 28 times -- as staff could not reach him.
Rep. Dennis Cardoza testified before a House subcommittee in 2009 that USP Atwater's warden at the time, Dennis
Smith, ignored Cardoza's attempts to communicate with him about concerns and conditions at the prison before Jose Rivera was
"My son would be here today if he would've had the right tools and if they had the staffing they need," Terry
Rivera said tearfully.
Federal prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Guerrero and Sablan for the killing. A routine evidentiary
hearing in the criminal case is set for Monday at the U.S. District Court in Fresno.
Coming upon the second anniversary of her son's death, Terry Rivera has hundreds of T-shirts, lapel pins and
commemorative coins that honor her son and his service as a correctional officer.
She's selling the items to raise money to create a scholarship fund in honor of her son. She says she wants
to work with Le Grand school officials to create the scholarship that would be given out yearly to a high-performing senior
to use for college.
To inquire about purchasing a T-shirt, lapel pin or commemorative coin, residents can view the Facebook page
dedicated to Correctional Officer Jose Rivera and send a message to Terry Rivera.
The page is a very public chronicle of a mother's pain. Only a few days go without a message from Terry to
Beating the Backlog Blues
By Alyssa Rosenberg
This week, the Federal Labor Relations Authority announced it had worked its way
through a stack of 340 unfair labor practices cases. Getting rid of that backlog, which built up during a period when the
George W. Bush administration lacked a general counsel and enough members for a quorum, was a victory for the small agency
in the quest to keep its workload manageable. But that wasn't the only benefit. Employees and their representatives agree
that backlogs take the bite out of unfair labor practice and discrimination charges, and make employees more vulnerable to
Now that unfair labor practice filings can be addressed more promptly, they "actually
mean something again," said Matt Biggs, legislative director for the International Federation of Professional and Technical
He said the knowledge FLRA will address new cases quickly could make agencies more
willing to work with employees and their union representatives instead of violating labor rules. Such an incentive could lower
the number of unfair labor practice cases filed overall, he said.
In "the recent past...management was well aware that cases before the FLRA simply
languished in no man's land, or when unions knew that there was little chance of prevailing despite how strong of a case we
had," he said. "There are teeth to this FLRA."
Employee advocates said they hoped other agencies that handle workplace complaints
will be able to follow in FLRA's footsteps.
Backlogs at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission hurt employees governmentwide
who file discrimination complaints, said Gabrielle Martin, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Council
of EEOC Locals. In fiscal 2008, the most recent year for which numbers are available, EEOC faced a pile of 73,951 federal
and private sector cases, and it took an average of eight months to process a complaint.
Employees often suffer additional discrimination, harassment and hostile workplace
practices while they wait for EEOC to review their cases, according to Martin. "The longer cases sit, we tend to see an increase
in retaliation charges," she said.
"This raises the question [of] whether people have lost faith in the system and go
to federal court rather than to EEOC," Martin added.
Janet Kopenhaver, Washington representative for the affinity group Federally Employed
Women, said even if retaliation does not occur, the prospect of a long wait could discourage workers from filing legitimate
"Employees know that if and when they file a complaint, the work environment is obviously
completely changed and awkward for both the employees and their supervisors," she said. "An employee might decide not to file
anything knowing that two years in an uncomfortable workplace would be extremely stressful each day. Second, these cases are
quite costly -- both emotionally and financially. Considering that the case might never be resolved or will take years to
do so would definitely impact a decision to move forward."
In the movies, justice often is sweet no matter how long the protagonist has to wait
to avenge his family, win a dramatic court case, or escape from an island where he's been unfairly imprisoned. In real life,
and in the federal complaints process in particular, the late British Prime Minister William Gladstone's observation that
"justice delayed is justice denied" can be painfully true.
Federal Prisoner Convicted of Attempted Murder for Slashing Deputy
Marshal’s Throat Sentenced to 20-Year Maximum
HOUSTON—Jose Garcia Jr., 31, of Mercedes, Texas, has been sentenced
to the statutory maximum punishment of 20 years' imprisonment for the attempted murder of a deputy U.S. marshal (DUSM), United
States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today. Garcia, a federal prisoner in custody, used a razor to slash at the throat
of DUSM at the federal courthouse in McAllen, Texas, on May 22, 2009. In June 2009, Garcia was indicted for attempted murder
of a federal agent in the Houston division.
Garcia pleaded guilty to the attack on a DUSM in December 2009. At a hearing
late this afternoon, United States District Judge Ewing Werlein sentenced Garcia to 20 years in federal prison to be followed
by a three-year term of supervised release. The 20-year sentence is to be served consecutive to his 50-year state prison sentence.
According to the factual basis in support of the guilty plea, Garcia was in
a holding cell in the federal courthouse awaiting a hearing before United States District Judge Randy Crane in McAllen for
the possible revocation of the term of supervised release imposed as part of a 2000 federal robbery conviction prompted by
Garcia’s recent state conviction for murder and 50-year sentence. While being lead into Judge Crane’s courtroom
from a holding cell through a door being held by a DUSM, Garcia walked through the door into the courtroom and lunged at the
DUSM slashing his throat with a razor blade. As the DUSM and other deputy marshals attempted to subdue Garcia, Garcia continued
to slash at the DUSM’s throat several more times. Eventually, Garcia was subdued. Bleeding profusely from the injury
to his neck, the DUSM was transported to the hospital and received nine stitches to close the wound.
FBI agents arrived at the scene and recovered the razor blade used by Garcia.
FBI agents then interviewed Garcia, who told them he felt a “vibe” when he saw the DUSM earlier in the day. Before
going in the courtroom, Garcia said he found a razor blade on the floor by the urinal in the holding cell located on the first
floor of the federal courthouse building. Garcia admitted he hid the razor blade in his upper lip then later moved it to his
hand where he had it when the cell door opened. As he walked closer to the DUSM, Garcia admitted he wanted to “get him
right there,” and was trying to kill the DUSM when he attacked him. Garcia told FBI agents he felt “relaxed”
after the attack.
Garcia, who has been in federal custody, will remain in custody to serve this
The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney
Mark McIntyre. Assistant U.S. Attorney Glenn Cook represented the government at today’s hearing.
shows jump in use of incentive payments
By Alex M. Parker
A new report shows that the amount federal agencies paid in relocation incentives
-- to compensate employees asked to move from one area to another -- nearly doubled from 2007 to 2008.
The Office of Personnel Management report shows than the rise in relocation bonuses, often to law enforcement officers and supervisors,
made up a sizable portion of the 37 percent overall increase in the amount paid out for what are known as "3Rs" incentives
for relocation, retention and recruitment.
Such increases have led OPM to ask
agencies to review their use of the incentives. The total number of bonuses handed
out increased by 7,027 between 2007 and 2008, to 39,511. The dollar amount spent on them went up by more than $77 million,
to nearly $285 million. Citing recent labor market conditions, OPM Director John Berry asked agencies to make sure incentives
All three categories of incentives saw increases from 2007 to 2008. On a percentage
basis, relocation incentives went up the most - nearly 86 percent, or about $20 million. Retention bonuses remained the most
popular type of incentive, with a $28.9 million increase from 2007 to 2008.
According to the report, the Defense Department awarded the most incentives, handing
out more than 19,000 bonuses totaling more than $135 million. The Veterans Affairs Department was second, with more than 9,000
incentives totaling almost $54 million. Other departments near the top of the list included Justice, Health and Human Services,
According to the report, 34 percent of all retention incentives were paid to employees
in the health care field, including nurses, medical officers and pharmacists. For recruitment incentives, the most common
occupation was patent examiner, which represented 11 percent of all such incentives.
Relocation incentives went to a mix of criminal investigators, contract officers,
administrators and engineers.
Two of the agencies that manage federal benefits handed out some of the largest incentives.
According to the report, OPM itself handed out five incentives averaging $23,600, including one relocation incentive of $70,000.
The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board gave out two awards, totaling $54,500 -- including a $38,650 retention incentive
to its executive director. Both made the top five list for largest average incentive payments.
There Skepticism About Merit System Principles?
'A growing skepticism'
Federal workers who want to advance might want to look at a report issued last week
by the Merit Systems Protection Board.
Through interviews and surveys, the MSPB came up with a list of 10 "career accelerators."
These are workplace situations that help employees move up the promotional ladder. The two top items relate directly to personal
"A supportive supervisor to encourage my development and advancement" and "senior
person/mentor (other than my supervisor) looking out for my interests" each were identified as having a positive impact by
85 percent of those surveyed.
"Clearly, one should not underestimate the power of personal connections in the workplace,"
the report says. "Given their nearly absolute control over the developmental opportunities employees receive, supervisors
play crucial roles in determining the fate of their employees."
This, of course, allows for bias and favoritism. The report says fears about unfair
and inequitable treatment are on the rise, even as perceptions of ethnic and racial discrimination have declined.
"Suspicions regarding traditional/blatant forms of discrimination have been supplanted
by a growing skepticism about managers making their decisions in accord with the merit principles," the MSPB found in responses
to its Career Advancement Survey.
The flip side of having encouraging supervisors and mentors is the feeling that "who
you know," which carries a negative connotation, is what counts when it comes to promotions. Far more respondents, 72 percent,
picked that as a reason for advancement, than did those who cited competence (40 percent) or hard work (36 percent).
Disturbingly, "over 70 percent of employees believed that some supervisors practiced
favoritism," according to the report. And those views cross racial and ethnic lines. My mail indicates that's a prime factor
undermining confidence in federal pay-for-performance systems.
Showing what you can do is an important way to be promoted. Being appointed an acting
supervisor presents a "critical opportunity for employees who aspire to demonstrate that they can handle the responsibilities"
of being the boss, the report says.
"Opportunity" seems to be the operative word here.
"Unfortunately, our survey results indicate that members of minority groups report
that they have less opportunity to serve in an acting capacity than White employees," the MSPB found. "Further, these discrepancies
do not appear to be diminishing."
The MSPB urged agencies to measure how their policies and practices help or hinder
progress toward workplace fairness. The measurement should include a workplace analysis that covers, among other things, "possible
barriers to a fully representative workforce." They also should "emphasize to supervisors their influence over -- and responsibility
for -- the career development of the employees they supervise."
Among other recommendations, the MSPB advises employees to seek or create developmental
opportunities and to develop productive relationships with supervisors or other mentors.
A view inside federal lockup
The nation's largest federal prison facility opened its doors to media for the first
COLEMAN - Encircling the perimeter of United States Penetentiary-1, one of two maximum-security prisons here, are coils
of barbed wire, the last buffer of security separating the concrete structure from the rest of the sprawling Federal Correctional
Complex of which it is part.
Here, an ordinary day for an inmate in general population
might go as follows: breakfast at 6 a.m., early morning work call by 7:40 a.m., vocational training or continued work duty,
leisure time in the recreation yard, and two more meals, before it's back to a bland 84-square-foot cell by the time lights
go out at 10 p.m.
With an average confinement period of 10 years, inmates
at Coleman Federal Correctional Complex, the nation's largest federal prison facility, must adapt to a certain way of living
- work, education, recreation, thriftiness - that prison staff hopes will prepare them for the world to which they might eventually
"Our prison is very reflective of the community," Bill Bechtold,
associate warden of U.S.P-2, said Wednesday during the first-ever media tour Coleman has conducted since opening in 1995.
Following a spate of recent bad publicity - staff smuggling
in contraband, the conviction of a correctional officer for violating an inmate's civil rights and contributing to his death
- Coleman employees hope to reinforce a positive message about the prison.
"Those people involved in those activities," Bechtold said,
"are not representative of the many great people here."
With a staff of about 1,300, Coleman is one of the largest,
if not largest, employers in Sumter County.
It's actively seeking to hire additional correctional officers,
especially medical personnel, to help supervise the 7,120 inmates it currently houses across four different facilities: a
low-security institution; a medium-security institution with adjacent satellite female work camp; and the two high-security
penitentiaries, known as U.S.P-1 and U.S.P-2.
With the exception of the female work camp, all inmates
are male, and the vast majority of their offenses are drug-related.
During the guided tour of U.S.P-1, led by a handful of associate
wardens and other staff, a scrubbed and smoothly functioning operation was on display: polished floors, immaculate hallways,
a GED class in session, colorful artwork on easels in a recreation room.
Even the general population inmates released into an enclosed
outdoor recreation yard, many sporting headphones, seemed to blend as naturally into the undisturbed calm as the beige on
their prison jumpsuits to the rural landscape.
Although both U.S.P-1 and U.S.P-2 have a segregated housing
unit reserved for the most violent, maximum-security offenders and for those who require protective custody, such areas were
not opened to the media Wednesday.
Subject to metal detection screening, media also were advised
not to participate in spontaneous interviews with inmates or correctional staff they happened to come across. No photography
At Coleman, each inmate is given a job assignment, in which
they can earn money to use at the prison commissary, for instance, to purchase things like snacks, aspirin, or personal hygiene
items, though these items are marked up 30 percent.
Depending on the pay grade, such jobs will net anywhere
between 12 cents to 40 cents an hour.
Coleman also offers an industries-oriented work program
- building office furniture, for instance - that nets higher salaries of 23 cents to $1.15 an hour.
Prison employees place a high emphasis on inmate productivity,
especially since it employs no outside contractors to perform maintenance work.
"We like to keep them busy because they stay out of trouble,"
said Steve Mora, associate warden at U.S.P-1.
Phil Geistfeld, who oversees educational services at Coleman,
added that the prison is "keeping these guys busy with something legitimate."
He noted that 42 percent of inmates are enrolled in at least
one educational or recreational program, such as an art or musical activity, and that 228 inmates obtained their GEDs in 2009,
while 447 completed some sort of vocational training.
This is a complex that serves 2,900 meals a day, and where
5,000 pieces of incoming mail are pre-screened daily. If anything is slight, it's the average daily number of visitors that
inmates receive, with Father's Day and Christmas being the busiest.
There are no plans to build an additional institution on
the 1,600-acre complex, although the inmate count has already reached official capacity, according to Bechtold. Still, he
said none of the facilities are so full as to be "packed to the gills."
If there is any one challenge over the next year that officials
say they hope to overcome, it's increasing staffing levels to sustain a high inmate population.
"They (the federal Bureau of Prisons) are locking up more
and more inmates but they're not hiring staff to equal it," said Jose Rojas, the new president of the local chapter of the
American Council of Prison Locals. "Of course that makes for a volatile cocktail."
Rojas, whose also teaches inmates at the Coleman prison,
said additional precautionary measures have been instituted over the last year.
He, too, rebuffed the notion that the Sumter County complex
is any more rife with staff misconduct than anywhere else in the nation.
"That's prison. Every now and again, there's cracks," he
said. "You'll always get folks that slide through the cracks. Hopefully those who do, get caught."
As Coleman seeks to burnish its image as a facility intent
on better preparing its inmates for life on the outside, all the while embracing a newfound philosophy of greater transparency,
it knows how it wants to do it.
As one of its staffers put it Wednesday, "Here at Coleman,
we take the attitude that we want to be good neighbors."
Mandatory Overtime = Sleep Deprivation
Remember that one little
question on your application process that stated, “Are you able to work mandatory overtime” and you marked yes
because you were excited to get into the system and started on your chosen career? Looking back do you ever wish you would
have marked NO? In no other profession is there such a high turnover rate requiring so much forced or mandatory overtime on
its personnel. It was not uncommon for the entire third shift officers to be mandated to stay for the entire first shift 5
days a week making for an 80 hour work week. 40 plus hours of overtime a pay period was the normal not the unusual and after
a while you began to hate telephone calls after 4:00 in the morning. I always wondered what the effects of the daily stress
and forced overtime did to a body.
From shift to shift the correctional officer is tasked with policing this violent institutional subculture.
Being subjected to this violent subculture on a daily basis is a stressor in the career and life of a correctional officer.
These stressors can cause the correctional officer to experience more health issues, have a shorter life span and on
average die at an earlier age than the average worker. Stress is not only harmful to the stressed officer or correctional
worker but is also difficult to the profession and to the lives of others working in the institution. Burned-out officers
frequently loose interest in their jobs, become passive instead of active in carrying out post and institutional orders, and
let things inmates do, go without consequence. Thus harmful incidents may occur that could have been avoided if handled properly
from the beginning.
Stress is not always a direct association of the inmate population. Other byproducts of the profession
can cause stress and impair functioning of the correctional officer. Shift Lag is one of these byproducts. Shift Lag is when
the stress and physiological fatigue of shift
work causes one to become irritable, experience impaired performance, and a feeling of being hypnotic both on the job
and in personal affairs
In a study published recently in the British journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine,
researchers in Australia and New Zealand report that sleep deprivation can have some of the same hazardous effects as being
drunk. Getting less than 6 hours a night can affect coordination, reaction time and judgment, posing “a very serious
risk.” Drivers are especially vulnerable, the researchers warned. They found that people who drive after being awake
for 17 to 19 hours performed worse than those with a blood alcohol level of .05 percent. That’s the legal limit for
drunk driving in most western European countries, though most U.S. states set their blood alcohol limits at .1 percent and
a few at .08 percent.
For correctional, in particular, current research has indicated a relationship between extended
shifts and generalized poor performance. Overtime often comes at the expense of sleep. A 1992 study, conducted by the American Journal of Public Health, found that nurses in Massachusetts who worked
variable schedules (including mandated overtime shifts) were twice as likely to report an accident or error and two-and-one-half
times as likely to notify supervisors of near miss accidents. With regard to healthcare professionals, sleep deprivation has
been implicated in deadly medication administration errors and decision-making processes during critical patient assessments.
Studies have shown that night shift workers have the highest incidence of
fatigue due to sleep deprivation.
Many correctional professionals will attest that sleep deprivation from shift work
may lead to occurrences that jeopardize not only themselves, but also other officers and inmates. Fatigue from long shifts
can reduce attention to detail, affecting critical thinking and performance. Although sleep is not cumulative, sleep deprivation
is. The more hours a person works, the longer it takes to complete a task. More mistakes are made, and alertness is markedly
decreased. In addition to reduced efficiency, sleep deprivation slows down recovery processes and impairs host defenses, increasing
susceptibility to infection. It influences the potential for developing other disorders as well. In particular, losing sleep
heightens the risk for type II diabetes, moodiness, and obesity. All these ailments will in turn lead to more call offs and
more need for mandatory overtime.
Shift working correctional officers affected by sleep deprivation experience
a greater incidence of diarrhea, constipation, ulcers, and heartburn. As if this were not enough, their risk of cardiovascular
disease is increased by to 50 percent. Women shift workers are more vulnerable to reproductive problems, from disrupted menstruation
and difficulty conceiving, to miscarriages and premature births. For example,
55% on midnights showed “elevated waist circumference,” more
than double the percentage found in the other 2 shifts. Half had sub-desirable levels of “good” cholesterol, compared
to 30% on days and 44% on afternoons, and 25% had high blood pressure, compared
to 15% on days and 9% on afternoons.
Getting six or fewer hours of sleep each night is just like being drunk. Consider
that most the legal blood alcohol content is .08. When you’ve been
up for 18 hours, studies show that you function as if your blood alcohol content
were .07. After 24 hours without sleep, you’re at 0.1 the same as a drunk driver. Now picture yourself after a 16 hour
mandated overtime from third shift to first. At that point, you’re fighting sleepiness, you’re more irritable,
and you have increased risk of accidents both at work and while driving. That is when you see people drinking a lot of caffeinated
beverages, popping out of their chairs at work more, using physical activity to keep themselves awake.
you now have to calculate more than the financial cost of forced or mandatory overtime at your facilities. What would a legal
suit bring against your agency for an auto accident following an officers 16 hour shift of mandatory overtime? What about
the obvious policy violations overlooked by sleepy officers on the pod? Inmates love staff shortages because they then know
that there will be a new officer working their unit, who does not necessarily care what happens as long as the shift
goes off without a major incident. Staff shortages and mandatory overtime may be the number one complaint in corrections.
It is like a revolving door happening, the more overtime within an agency the more call offs it creates, the more staff resignations
and unplanned illnesses you have.
Despite the often exemplary care given at most Veterans Affairs Department medical facilities, sometimes the best care
for a wounded warrior comes from a loved one. A provision tucked away in the fiscal 2010 Defense Authorization Act will make
it easier for federal employees and other workers to take time off to care for family members injured while on active duty.
The measure -- summarized in a Dec. 29, 2009, memorandum from Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry to agency
heads -- allows federal employees to take up to 26 weeks of unpaid leave annually through the 1993 Family and Medical Leave
Act to care for an injured veteran. To qualify, a veteran must be undergoing medical treatment or therapy for the injury,
and he or she must have served in the military within five years of the treatment.
The new law builds on a provision passed in the fiscal 2009 Defense Authorization Act, which granted leave to help care
for injured active-duty soldiers, by allowing time off to care for veterans as well.
"That's pretty significant," said Carl Bosland, a Colorado attorney who specializes in family and medical leave issues.
"There are a lot of vets out there."
The 2010 law also broadens the types of injuries that qualify for the leave to include existing injuries aggravated by
In addition, the policy measure allows family members to take time off when active-duty troops are deployed to Iraq or
Afghanistan. This leave can used to spend more time with the soon-to-be deployed soldier and settle financial or family issues.
Previously, this benefit was available only to families of reservists called to certain types of duty.
Leave taken under FMLA -- whether for military care, medical issues, or the birth of a child -- is unpaid. But employees
who have saved up other types of paid leave can apply that to make up some of the lost wages.
OPM announces reorganization
The Office of Personnel Management announced on Tuesday a significant restructuring
of its divisions, changes that observers say could place a greater emphasis on senior executives, veterans and diversity hiring,
as well as OPM's oversight and compliance responsibilities.
The reorganization creates five
core divisions at OPM: employee services, retirement and benefits, merit system audit
and compliance, federal investigative services, and human resources solutions. Currently, OPM's organizational chart lists
13 offices, a setup Director John Berry called confusing and counterintuitive during a June 2009 meeting with agency employees.
"When the president nominated me for this job, I said, 'Let me see the [organizational]
chart,' and I sat down with it," Berry said at the meeting in which he promised a restructuring. "Ten minutes, 20 minutes,
30 minutes [later], I still couldn't tell you [what the agency was focusing on]."
Some of the biggest changes will be the new employee services division, to be led by Nancy
Kichak, who currently heads OPM's strategic human resources policy division. Kichak will oversee the work of the agency's
deputy chief human capital officer, and offices specifically dedicated to recruitment and diversity issues; pay and leave
policy; executive resources and employee development; partnership and labor relations, and support for agencies and the veterans
"I think what John Berry is telegraphing here, and I don't disagree, is there is a benefit
for these public policy programs to have a champion, someone whose job it is to be concerned about veterans affairs, someone
whose job it will be to oversee everything related to the Senior Executive Service, and equal opportunity employment, and
labor relations," said John Palguta, vice president for policy at the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service.
OPM announced in August that it would create an office dedicated to the SES, replacing the one disbanded in a 2003 reorganization.
And the creation of veterans- and diversity-specific offices reflects the emphasis Berry has placed on federal hiring of veterans and increased diversity in federal
Carol Bonosaro, president of the Senior Executives Association, praised the reorganization
but cautioned that implementing the details would be important.
"I'm pleased that the director has re-established a focal point for the federal career
executive corps, though we would have preferred to see a stand-alone office," she said. "The policy issues and unmet needs,
which can and should be addressed, are substantial, so it remains to be seen whether the Executive Resources Office receives
the resources it will need to make a real difference."
Palguta said the creation of the merit system audit and compliance division as a discrete
entity would sharpen OPM's oversight efforts. The new division will be led by Jeff Sumberg, who is currently the deputy associate
director responsible for the Center for Merit System Accountability. The previous division, called human capital leadership
and merit system accountability, was "kind of a strange mix," Palguta said.
Berry credited OPM employees, particularly Michelle Tolson, president of the American
Federation of Government Employees local that represents OPM workers, for making the reorganization possible.
"Now, all of OPM's customers -- both internal and external -- will know exactly where
to go for answers," Berry said in a statement.
Federal agencies must post public data online
The White House released a series of wide-ranging mandates Tuesday designed to make agencies more transparent and cooperative
in the public's requests for information about the inner workings of government.
Among other things, federal agencies have until the end of January to post three "high-value" data sets on Data.gov, the online home of such government information.
The Open Government Plan delivers a victory to open-government groups that have long sought to transform how the government
presents and shares information with the public.
The plan says that agencies must publish information online in a timely manner and present their data in a Web-friendly
format that is available to download. Agencies with significant backlogs of Freedom
of Information Act requests will have to reduce that number of requests by 10 percent each year.
director of the Office of Management and Budget, said he expects that federal agencies and
departments will comply.
"Failure to follow through on this will generate displeasure from the White
House and the president," he said in an interview. "I don't think we've had a problem with Cabinet secretaries embracing clear directives from the president."
Orszag's team spent months meeting with government officials and good-government groups after President Obama ordered on his first full day
in office a review of the government's transparency and openness efforts.
"The results appear to be well worth the wait," said Gary D. Bass, executive
director of OMB Watch, one of several groups that pushed for transparency reforms.
"The key will be how the public, the White House and federal agencies
work together in implementing the directive," Bass said.
Ellen Miller, executive director and co-founder of the Sunlight Foundation
in Washington, said that the new orders demonstrate "the seriousness of
the administration's commitment to data transparency and citizen engagement. It is evidence that the administration recognizes
that transparency is government's responsibility."
Orszag said that the Internet has made government transparency efforts much easier. Although an agency could require that
people visit their offices to review public records, he said, that would be "much less transparent than posting something
on a Web site."
"Ease of access is part of transparency," Orszag said.
Obama Tells Prison to Take Detainees
WASHINGTON — In ordering the federal government to acquire an Illinois prison to house
terrorism suspects who are currently held at Guantánamo Bay,
Cuba, President Obama on Tuesday took a major step toward
shutting down the military detention facility that its detractors say had become a potent recruitment tool for Al Qaeda.
But even before White House officials had released a letter informing Gov. Patrick
J. Quinn of Illinois of the plans to send a “limited number” of Guantánamo detainees
to the Thomson Correctional Center, an empty super-maximum-security prison in northwestern Illinois, Republicans were gearing
for what could be an emotional fight on Capitol Hill.
“The administration has failed to explain how transferring terrorists to Gitmo North will
make Americans safer than keeping terrorists off of our shores in the secure facility in Cuba,” Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate Republican leader, said in a statement. Representative
John A. Boehner of Ohio, the House Republican leader,
told reporters he would not vote to “spend one dime to move those prisoners to the U.S.”
Administration officials acknowledged that the move would require Congressional approval, since
Congress now bars Guantánamo detainees from being brought onto American soil unless they face prosecution, and some of the
detainees may be indefinitely confined without being tried. But one administration official said that Democrats, who control
both houses, were planning to lift that restriction if the administration came up with an acceptable plan for closing the
military prison at Guantánamo.
Mr. Obama declared shortly after his inauguration that he would close the facility — a
signature component of the Bush administration’s counterterrorism policy — within a year. But dealing with the
detainees at the prison has proved difficult, and he has acknowledged that he will most likely miss that deadline.
The officials, speaking on grounds of anonymity under White House rules, said that they had
not yet determined how many Guantánamo detainees would be sent to Thomson, nor have they set a timetable for moving them there.
But several administration officials put the probable number of transferred detainees at about 100.
There are currently about 210 detainees at Guantánamo, administration officials said. Since
Mr. Obama took office, about 30 inmates have been transferred to other countries, and administration officials have said they
hope that 100 more prisoners may also be sent overseas.
The officials said they plan to prosecute more than 40 of the remaining detainees in either
military or civilian courts. Five have already been designated to face military commissions and five will be tried in civilian courts, including Khalid Sheikh
Mohammed, the chief planner of the 2001 attacks, who will face trial in New York.
As many as several dozen prisoners would be held in indefinite detention in a category the Obama
administration refers to as “law of war” detainees — those deemed ineligible for prosecution but too dangerous
to release. Though the administration has not yet identified who would be included in that category, lawyers for many of the
detainees have filed habeas corpus petitions in federal
court challenging their detention.
Addressing critics’ concerns that those prisoners could be freed inside the United States,
administration officials said that if any of the habeas appeals succeeded, the detainees would be transferred out of the country
or brought to trial.
White House officials said moving terrorism suspects to Illinois would not put Americans at
risk. They walked through a list of upgrades that the Thomson prison will get — an additional security perimeter among
them — and added that the move would also bring an additional 3,000 jobs.
Most of the prison would house ordinary high-security inmates, but a part would be leased to
the Defense Department to hold the terrorism suspects. Administration officials said in a conference call with reporters that
the two parts of the facility would be managed separately.
In the letter to Governor Quinn, the administration promised that federal inmates at Thomson
would not interact with Guantánamo detainees.
“Not only will this help address the urgent overcrowding problem at our nation’s
Federal prisons, but it will also help achieve our goal of closing the detention center at Guantánamo in a timely, secure,
and lawful manner,” said the letter, signed by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates,
Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair and Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.
It was not immediately clear how the government would pay for the prison and the required upgrades,
but White House officials have floated the idea of including financing for it in the 2010 military appropriations bill.
The decision to move the detainees to the United States generated criticism from both sides
of the political aisle. Senator John Cornyn, Republican
of Texas, called it “deeply troubling” in a statement. “This move will put our citizens in unnecessary danger,”
he said, “and that is unjustifiable and unacceptable.”
From the left, Amnesty International was equally critical. “The only thing that President Obama is doing with this announcement is changing the ZIP
code of Guantánamo,” said Tom Parker, Amnesty International USA policy director.
“The detainees who are currently scheduled to be relocated to Thomson have not been charged
with any crime,” Mr. Parker said. “In seven years, the U.S. government, including the C.I.A. and F.B.I.,
have not produced any evidence against these individuals that can be taken into a court of law.”
Earlier proposals to move detainees to Kansas, Michigan and South Carolina have been rejected
by local political leaders. The difficulty in finding a place to move them is a significant reason the Obama administration
has been unable to keep Mr. Obama’s pledge to close the Cuban prison by next month.
Earlier this year, lawmakers barred the Obama administration from releasing any Guantánamo prisoners
into the country. More recently, Congress kept in place the ban on releasing them in the United States, but authorized transfers
for prosecution to military or civilian courts, though it required a 45-day notice of all such moves.
President Obama gives feds half day off on Christmas
By Tom ShoopDecember 12, 2009
President Obama ordered late Friday that all federal agencies close for the last half of the
work day on Thursday, Dec. 24, to give employees a jump on the Christmas holiday.
In an executive
order, Obama also noted that the heads of departments and agencies may determine
that "certain offices and installations of their organizations, or parts thereof, must remain open and that certain employees
must remain on duty for the full scheduled workday" on Christmas Eve.
Traditionally, presidents grant employees an extra day of vacation when Christmas falls on Tuesday
or Thursday. This year it is on a Friday.
Last year, when Christmas fell on a Thursday,
President Bush ordered executive branch agencies to close on the next day, Friday, Dec. 26, giving
most federal employees a four-day weekend over the Christmas holiday.
The last time Christmas fell on a Friday, in 1998, President Clintongave federal workers a half day off. At that time, a White House spokesman said the half day was something of a tradition in years when Christmas falls
on a Friday.
In 2002, when Christmas fell on a Wednesday, Bush gave federal workers a half day of vacation
TODAY: Senior Administration Officials to Hold Background Briefing
Call on Decision to Acquire Thomson Correctional Center;
Quinn, Durbin to be Briefed at the White House
WASHINGTON – Today, senior administration officials will
hold a background briefing call with reporters to discuss the administration’s
decision to acquire Thomson Correctional Center in Illinois to house federal
inmates and a limited number of detainees from Guantanamo Bay , Cuba .
Today, the Secretaries of State, Homeland Security, and Defense, the Director of National
Intelligence, and the Attorney General wrote to Illinois GovernorPat Quinn announcing the administration’s
decision. Today’s announcement marks an important step towards
closing Guantanamo, which will protect our national security and help American
troops by removing a deadly recruiting tool from the hands of al Qaeda.
This afternoon, Governor Pat Quinn and Senator Dick Durbin will be briefed at the White House about the decision by General
James Jones, National Security
Advisor; William Lynn, Deputy Secretary of Defense; and Harley Lappin,
the Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
The meeting will be closed press but there will be a stakeout immediately
following the meeting.
Details about the background call and the stakeout are
BACKGROUND BRIEFING CALL WITH REPORTERS
WHO: Senior Administration
WHAT: Background Briefing call on
the Administration’s Decision to Acquire Thomson Prison
WHEN: TODAY, 1:00 pm ET
call is NOT embargoed.
STAKEOUT WITH GOVERNOR QUINN,
SENATOR DURBIN, ADMINISTRATION OFFICIALS FOLLOWING WHITE HOUSE MEETING ON
WHO: Illinois Governor
Senator Dick Durbin
General James Jones, National Security
William Lynn, Deputy Secretary of Defense
Harley Lappin, Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons
Stakeout following briefing on Thomson prison
WHEN: TODAY, 3:15 pm ET
WHERE: Stakeout location outside of West Wing
Note: Press needing access to the White House to cover the stakeout must send their
vital information and RSVP to email@example.com by 1:30 pm ET today.
Rural Ill. prison to house some Gitmo detainees
Decision is key step to closing Cuba facility; town hopes for jobs boon
WASHINGTON - Taking
an important step on the thorny path to closing the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the White House plans to announce Tuesday that the government will acquire an underutilized state
prison in rural Illinois to be the new home for a limited number of terrorist suspects held at Guantanamo.
as well as Illinois Sen. Richard Durbin and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn will make an official announcement at the White House.
Officials from both
the White House and Durbin's office confirmed that President Barack Obama had directed the government to acquire Thomson Correctional Center in Thomson, Ill., a sleepy town near the Mississippi River about 150 miles from Chicago. The officials
spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid pre-empting Tuesday's announcement.
A Durbin aide said
the facility would house federal inmates and no more than 100 detainees from Guantanamo Bay.
The facility in Thomson
had emerged as a clear front-runner after Illinois officials, led by Durbin, enthusiastically embraced the idea of turning
a near-dormant prison over to federal officials.
The White House has
been coy about its selection process, but on Friday a draft memo leaked to a conservative Web site that seemed to indicate
officials were homing in on Thomson.
The Thomson Correctional
Center was one of several potential sites evaluated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons to potentially house detainees from the
Navy-run prison at Guantanamo Bay. Officials with other prisons, including Marion, Ill., Hardin, Mont., and Florence, Colo.,
have said they would welcome the jobs that would be created by the new inmates.
is a top priority for Obama, and he signed an executive order hours into his presidency directing that the process of closing
the prison begin. Obama has said he wants terrorism suspects transferred to American soil so they can be tried for their suspected
The Thomson Correctional
Center was built by Illinois in 2001 as a state prison with the potential to house maximum security inmates. Local officials
hoped it would improve the local economy, providing jobs to a hard-hit community. State budget problems, however, have kept
the 1,600-cell prison from ever fully opening. At present, it houses about 200 minimum-security inmates.
Obama has faced some
resistance to the idea of housing terrorism suspects in the United States, but in Thomson many have welcomed the prospect
as a potential economic engine. Thomson Village President Jerry Hebeler, was asleep when the word came that Thomson had been
"It's news to me,
but then I'm always the last to know anything," Hebeler said Monday night of the news affecting his town of 450 residents.
"It'll be good for the village and the surrounding area, especially with all the jobs that have been lost here."
But Hebeler said
he wouldn't rejoice until "the ink is on the paper" because previous plans for increased use of the nearly empty prison have
Some Illinois officials
have not supported the idea. GOP Rep. Mark Kirk, who is seeking Obama's old Senate seat, said he believes moving Guantanamo
detainees to Illinois will make the state a greater threat for terrorist attacks. Kirk has lobbied other officials to contact
the White House in opposition to using the facility.
To be sure, Thomson
will not solve all the administration's Guantanamo-related problems. There still will be dozens of detainees who are not relocated
to Thomson, other legal issues and potential resistance from Congress.
Thomson is a symbolic
step, however, a clear sign that the United States is working to find a new place to hold detainees from Guantanamo.
President Barack Obama owes a lot to the unions. It’s no secret that labor spent
massively on his behalf during the presidential election last year and directed a tsunami of voters to the polls. Union foot
soldiers helped make the difference for him in places like Ohio and other hard-hat-rich swing states. While the president
has already moved on several union-friendly initiatives, time is running out on what may be a one-time opportunity to pass
a cherished labor goal, the Employee Free Choice Act.
But the president faces a conundrum. To get EFCA passed, he must lean on some of the same politically imperiled
moderate Democratic Senators he’s pressuring now to approve a health care overhaul — and whose votes may be needed
for climate change legislation as well.
By soliciting their support for EFCA, he will expose himself and them to an all-hands-on-deck campaign —
teeming with negative ads — from the business community.
Little could be closer to the hearts of union leaders than the “card check” bill, which labor
leaders view as an act of simple justice that would also grow their membership by making it easier unionize workplaces. With
a Democratic president and Democrats in control of both the House and the Senate, union operatives want a vote ASAP, before
the political season heats up. The game is in the Senate, where EFCA backers are probably just a few votes short of the 60
they need to overcome a filibuster.
Top union officials say they believe Senate leaders are willing to move on card check early next year, after
Congress acts on the health bill and a jobs bill. They expect Obama to help make the fight.
“Obviously it’s a priority for us,” one veteran union operative said. “We’re
going to say to the White House, ‘Remember when you said you would do EFCA when health care is done? Well, now health
care is done.’”
Obama’s commitment to the legislation was spelled out in an appearance before the AFL-CIO in Philadelphia
on April 2, 2008, when he was still slugging it out with then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) for the Democratic presidential
“If a majority of workers want a union, they should get a union, it’s that simple,” Obama
said. “Let’s stand up to the business lobby that’s been getting their friends in Washington to block card
check. I’ve fought to pass the Employee Free Choice Act in the Senate. And I will make it the law of the land when I’m
president of the United States of America.”
Labor officials have been in intensive discussions with Senate Democratic leaders about the issue. According
to one labor source, union presidents will huddle with Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Wednesday, and card check, along
with the health care bill now on the Senate floor, will be on the agenda.
Democratic aides seem unsure of the timing for the bill, despite the expectations of labor sources.
There will be an “awful busy start to next year,” a senior Democratic leadership aide said. The
unions “have a long list of ideas that they want,” he said.
Reid’s office was not willing to publicly commit to a date. “The Employee Free Choice Act remains
a top priority for Senator Reid, but he has not scheduled any specific time to begin debating the bill,” a Reid spokesman
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), a liberal who is close to the unions, said he thought a measure could get through
early in the year, asserting that Democrats need “only one or two votes” to get to 60.
One of those votes is Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), a moderate facing a tough battle for re-election. Obama
must have her support to pass health overhaul — a difficult vote for her — and he will be stretching her even
further politically by asking her to support card check.
Business lobbyists will focus on her and others they may be able to pick off, and they plan to play hardball.
“We will take no prisoners when it comes to lobbying the Senators we need to lobby, and they know who
they are,” said Randel Johnson, chief labor lobbyist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “The business community
will go to the mat on the Employee Free Choice Act whenever it is scheduled,” he said.
Business officials believe they have a wider target than the “one or two” votes seen by Brown.
Included along with Lincoln on the list are Democratic Sens. Mary Landrieu (La.), Mark Pryor (Ark.) and Ben Nelson (Neb.).
White House officials declined to comment.
“The expectation is that the White House will support this,” one top union lobbyist said.
Statements by OPM and OMB
on President Obama's Signing of an Executive Order Creating Labor-Management Forums to Improve Delivery of Government Services
From U.S. Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry
"Today, President Obama launched a new era of relations between workers and managers inside the Federal government.
His Executive Order Creating Labor-Management Forums to Improve Delivery of Government Services signals a new day for
collaboration and cooperation within government. By directing all agencies to sit down with their elected labor representatives,
we are restarting a collaborative process begun under the Clinton administration that yielded concrete improvements in agency
"I look forward to serving as a co-chair of the strong new National Council on Federal Labor-Management
Relations created by the executive order. This Council will work with leaders from the labor and manager communities
and the Office of Management and Budget to ensure that agencies and managers fully involve their workers and the workers'
elected representatives throughout decision-making processes. Together, we will create work environments where everyone
is heard and the best ideas for making government work better are brought to the fore and put into action.
"Our workers are our greatest asset, and we must unleash their energy and creativity to overcome the great
challenges our nation faces. This executive order begins to accomplish that goal by creating new space for collaboration
and cooperation between Federal workers and managers."
From Jeffrey Zients, Federal Chief Performance Officer and Deputy Director for Management at the White
House Office of Management and Budget
"The President is committed to shaping the federal government to be more effective and efficient in providing
services to the American people. A key component of this effort is improving how labor and management work together.
The National Council on Federal Labor-Management Relations and the affiliated forums at federal agencies will provide venues
for all sides to work toward a stronger, more effective federal government.
"I look forward to co-chairing the Council with Director Berry and advancing the President's priorities."
For feds, more get 6-figure salaries
By Dennis Cauchon, USA TODAY
The number of federal workers earning six-figure
salaries has exploded during the recession, according to a USA TODAY analysis of federal salary data.
Federal employees making salaries of $100,000
or more jumped from 14% to 19% of civil servants during the recession's first 18 months — and that's before overtime
pay and bonuses are counted.
Federal workers are enjoying an extraordinary
boom time — in pay and hiring — during a recession that has cost 7.3 million jobs in the private sector.
The highest-paid federal employees are doing
best of all on salary increases. Defense Department civilian employees earning $150,000 or more increased from 1,868 in December
2007 to 10,100 in June 2009, the most recent figure available.
When the recession started, the Transportation
Department had only one person earning a salary of $170,000 or more. Eighteen months later, 1,690 employees had salaries above
The trend to six-figure salaries is occurring
throughout the federal government, in agencies big and small, high-tech and low-tech. The primary cause: substantial pay raises
and new salary rules.
"There's no way to justify this to the American
people. It's ridiculous," says Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, a first-term lawmaker who is on the House's federal workforce
Jessica Klement, government affairs director
for the Federal Managers Association, says the federal workforce is highly paid because the government employs skilled people
such as scientists, physicians and lawyers. She says federal employees make 26% less than private workers for comparable jobs.
USA TODAY analyzed the Office of Personnel Management's database that tracks salaries of more
than 2 million federal workers. Excluded from OPM's data: the White House, Congress, the Postal Service, intelligence agencies
and uniformed military personnel.
The growth in six-figure salaries has pushed
the average federal worker's pay to $71,206, compared with $40,331 in the private sector.
Key reasons for the boom in six-figure salaries:
• Pay hikes. Then-president
Bush recommended — and Congress approved — across-the-board raises of 3% in January 2008 and 3.9% in January 2009.
President Obama has recommended 2% pay raises in January 2010, the smallest since 1975. Most federal workers also get longevity
pay hikes — called steps — that average 1.5% per year.
•New pay system. Congress created
a new National Security Pay Scale for the Defense Department to reward merit, in addition to the across-the-board increases.
The merit raises, which started in January 2008, were larger than expected and rewarded high-ranking employees. In October,
Congress voted to end the new pay scale by 2012.
• Paycaps eased.
Many top civil servants are prohibited from making more than an agency's leader. But if Congress lifts the boss' salary, others
get raises, too. When theFederal Aviation Administration chief's salary rose, nearly 1,700 employees' had their salaries lifted above $170,000, too.
U.S. Attorney General Goes to N.Y. for Meetings on 9/11 Trials
Amid significant concern about security arrangements for the trial of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Attorney GeneralEric
H. Holder Jr. made an unannounced visit on Wednesday to federal prosecutors and law enforcement
officials in New York.
Mr. Holder went to the Metropolitan Correctional Center, the United States attorney’s office
and the adjacent federal court in Lower Manhattan, where Mr. Mohammed, who is accused of being the mastermind behind the Sept.
11 attacks, and four other 9/11 detainees will be tried, just blocks from where the World Trade Center once stood.
He met with security officials, including Raymond W. Kelly,
the city’s police commissioner, and Joseph M. Demarest Jr., the assistant director in charge of the F.B.I.’s New York office, “to discuss coordination, cooperation and security for the potential upcoming
trials of the 9/11 terrorists,” said Special Agent Richard Kolko, an F.B.I. spokesman in New York.
Mr. Holder’s visit, and the range of people he huddled with, reflected the government’s
seriousness in approaching the as-yet-unscheduled trials and their potential to wreak havoc on a city battered by terrorism
plots, successful and not.
Once the Justice Department announced on Nov. 13 that it was bringing its case to Manhattan, the Police
Department began formulating plans for “security around the venue itself, and protection of the city,” including
its bridges, transit system and landmarks, said Paul J. Browne, the Police Department’s chief spokesman.
William T. Morris, a deputy chief in the department’s Criminal Justice Bureau, is collecting
information for Mr. Kelly from sectors like the Intelligence Division and the Counterterrorism Bureau, which oversees the
more than 100 detectives assigned to work with the F.B.I. on the Joint Terrorism Task Force.
There will be the usual physical security elements, including roadway checkpoints, patrol officers
in the streets and snipers on rooftops. There will be unseen elements, too: plainclothes officers mingling with crowds. Protection
for the prosecutors, witnesses and the judge will also be factored in, officials said.
While the entire operation will be similar to the deployment for a New Year’s
Eve celebration, the difference this time is it will have to be sustained over months or more,
Mr. Kelly has told the Justice Department that the costs for security operations, including paying
officers’ overtime, are expected to exceed the initial minimum estimate of $75 million.
When Senator Charles S. Schumer asked Mr. Holder in a Nov. 18 hearing in Washington if he would recommend
that the president include money in the federal budget for the city’s
extra security costs, the attorney general said, “New York should not bear the burden alone.”
On Wednesday, Mr. Holder also met with officials from the federal Bureau of Prisons, the United States
Marshals Service and federal prosecutors from Virginia, where Zacarias Moussaoui
was sentenced to life in prison in 2006 for his role in the Qaeda conspiracy.
“He was in New York to meet with the prosecution team working on the 9/11 case,” Matthew
A. Miller, a spokesman for Mr. Holder, said after the meetings. “There is broad agreement that we can safely and securely
hold these trials.”
Federal inmate killed during fight at W.Va. prison
A federal prison in northern West Virginia remains locked down a day after an inmate was fatally stabbed
during a fight.
Rodney Myers, a spokesman for the U.S. Penitentiary at Hazelton, said 26-year-old inmate Jimmy Lee Wilson
was pronounced dead at 7:30 p.m. Sunday. The lockdown remained in effect Monday evening.
Guantanamo Bay: depressed US towns battle to house detainees in 'Gitmo North'
Several blighted US towns are battling for the right to host Guantanamo Bay terror detainees in their own
backyards in an unusual case of reverse "nimbyism".
The strategy of requesting the Islamic extremists accused of some of the world's worst atrocities, including
the attacks of Sept 11 2001, as neighbours may seem perverse.
But local officials hope they will land a bonanza of jobs and investment by offering up their empty prisons
as President Barack Obama tries to close the infamous prison camp, on a US naval base on Cuba nicknamed "Gitmo".
In the process, they have thrust themselves on to the frontline of a fierce national debate as Republicans
accuse the Obama administration of endangering national security with plans to house and try terror suspects on US soil.
Amid the watermelon fields along the banks of the Mississippi River, the Illinois village of Thomson - down
to about 450 residents after business and stores closed - has emerged as a strong contendor for "Gitmo North".
Federal officials last week visited an almost empty high-security 1,600-cell prison there that has rarely
housed any inmates since it was completed for $128 million in 2001. The Bureau of Prisons and Department of Defence would
upgrade it to the standards of a "supermax" - as the country's most secure federal jail is called - if it is chosen.
The state's Democratic governor and senior senator have said that the moving the prisoners there could create
more than 3,000 jobs in the area - including 900 at the prison itself. htat sounds highly attractive to many residents. "We're
hurting here, hurting bad," said village president Jerry Hebeler.
But Republicans have raised the spectre of attempted rescues of inmates by fellow Islamisists and retaliatory
attacks on the skyscrapers and airport of Chicago, 150 miles to the west, as well as disputing the benefits for local coffers.
Federal officials have also visited a prison about to close in the economically-striken Michigan city of Standish,
where the jobless rate stands at 18 per cent. Michael Moran, the city manager, has little time for those opposed to re-locating
Guantanamo detainees. "We already have unemployment figures of the level of the Great Depression and we are losing the jobs
of 500 prison guards and yet we still get some people trying to stoke up fears," he told The Sunday Telegraph.
"I am a former corrections officer and a former military policeman and I am sure that there are no security
fears. It's unfounded scaremongering."
In Big Horn County in Montana, officials in Hardin are proposing their pristine new detention centre - empty
for two years - as an ideal site to locate the prisoners, arguing that their remote location in "cowboy country" is another
plus. Unemployment here is above 10 per cent.
And another Illinois town, Marion, has also made a bid for the detainees. "Bring them on," said Mayor Robert
Butler, hoping to reduce an unemployment rate just below 10 per cent.
Florence, home to the country's only current federal "supermax", has made a pitch too. But the prison would
probably only have space for the "worst of the worst" - such as self-confessed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who
is due to be put on trial in New York - as it already houses the likes of British "shoe bomber" Richard Reid, the Unabomber
Theodore Kacynski, and other convicted Islamic terrorists.
Mr Obama admitted publicly last week that the deadline he set for closing Guantanamo Bay - Jan 22 2010, a
year after he took office - will be missed. One of the prime problems has been overcoming opposition in Congress to moving
detainees to the US mainland, so selecting an appropriate site is key to his strategy.
The camp is currently home to about 215 prisoners. If Mr Obama has his way, up to 100 could be transferred
for detention and later trial in the US, while the remainder would be cleared for transfer overseas, so long as countries
willing to accept them can be found.
As the debate rages, the residents of the competing towns are not the only interested parties - so are the
detainees in Cuba, for they know one thing is certain if they are moved. Their conditions will be a lot less comfortable,
and not just because of less clement climes of the main contendors for Gitmo North.
For while Guantanamo Bay may be the world's most notorious prison, life behind the barbed wire there has never
During a recent visit, the DVD in the recreational room was loaded with Spiderman 3, ready for an afternoon
viewing, while others detainees prepared to play football outside on a pitch built at their request Lunch was served with
the usual daily choice of six menus, all Middle Eastern and following halal rules of preparation. Fresh supplies of dates,
olive oil, honey and pita bread are also on offer.
Detainees spend at least two hours out in the Caribbean sun every day and have access to a library of 16,000
books, 1,600 magazines and 300 DVDs - Agatha Christie is surprisingly popular, although tomes on the Islamic faith are in
most demand. In every cell there is an arrow pointing towards Mecca, a prayer rug and beads; there is one medical member of
staff for every three detainees, After it was opened in Jan 2002 by then president George W Bush to receive suspected members
of al-Qaeda and the Taliban, Guantanamo quickly bacame a symbol of detainee abuse and detention without charge and a stain
on America's reputation.
Now, incredible though it may sound, camp officials say that hardcore detainees, who are certain they will
never be free men, would rather stay in Guantanamo than spend a life sentence, or years waiting for execution, in the US.
"They know there will not receive the same privileges as here," Zak, an Arab American appointed in 2005 to
liaise with the exclusively Muslim detainees, told The Sunday Telegraph. "Given the choice of being sentenced forever in Guantanamo
or moved to supermax, it is 'No, can I stay in Gitmo?'. Here they can be outside, they can smell the sea."
By contrast, prisoners at the Florence "supermax" spend 22½ hours a day in a 9ft by 9ft cell. The only natural
light comes from a 4in by 4ft window that only shows the sky, in order to prevent the prisoner from knowing his specific location
within the complex. Exercise time is strictly limited.
It took years for the Pentagon to grasp what damage conditions at Guantanamo were doing to America's reputation.
But Adm Thomas Copeman, the detention centre's commander, now confidently describes it as a "model detention facility".
Peter King, a Republican congressman who visited earlier this year and wants Mr Obama to keep the faciltiy
open, said that "if there's any scandal at Guantanamo, it is that the detainees are treated too well". It is, he complained
"a Club Med for terrorists".
Federal plan could bring 3,000 jobs to Thomson area
THOMSON, Ill. — When the Savanna Army Depot closed in 2000 and took 450 federally
funded jobs with it, the jobs were supposed to be replaced with jobs from a new state prison to be built on the site.
Instead, the prison was built down the road in Thomson, and most of the jobs have never been created
because the prison has been sitting mostly vacant since its completion in 2001.
Diane Komiskey, executive director of the Jo-Carroll Depot Local Redevelopment Authority, said a proposal
to sell the Thomson prison to the federal government for use as a federal penitentiary and terrorist detainee operation would
mean the return of federal dollars — and much-needed jobs — to the area, bringing the closing of the Army depot
“And it is long past time to close that circle,” she said.
The Obama administration has estimated that the plan could create more than 3,000 jobs and have an
economic impact of $1 billion over four years.
Up to 1,500 military and civilian Department of Defense employees would be part of the detainee operation,
and the Federal Bureau of Prisons would have 800 to 900 people running the federal side of the prison. Beyond that, more jobs
could be created through businesses that will serve the prison and the employees who move to the area to work and live.
Komiskey said federal officials expect prison employees would live within a one-hour radius of the
prison, which includes several cities in Illinois and Iowa, including the Quad-Cities.
In addition to jobs created by increased demand for goods and services in those communities,
the prison also could create more jobs by contracting with local businesses for services such as food delivery, building
supplies, office supplies, waste removal, equipment maintenance and specialty medical services, said Ed Ross, a spokesman
for the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
Jonathan Whitney, publisher of Thomson’s local newspaper, The Carroll County Review, said while
he expects most of the employees who would come to work at the prison will live in other communities, enough may relocate
to Thomson to provide a boost to local restaurants, gas stations or service businesses.
He said he does not expect a major development of new businesses or a change to Thomson’s small-town
“The way of life here won’t be destroyed,” he said.
Dawn Burkholder, owner of Dian’s Original Grooming, said she has a real estate license she hasn’t
had much use for in Thomson in recent years.
She said the jobs created by the opening of the prison would benefit her dog-grooming business and
the real estate business and she did not agree with those who oppose the prison plan because of concerns about safety.
“Let’s face it, this area needs the jobs,” she said. “It would be silly not
to embrace employment in this area.”
Bruce Thomas, district manager for Allied Waste Services in Clinton, Iowa, said his company already
has a waste removal contract with the Thomson Correctional Center, which currently houses 200 medium-security prisoners for
the state. He said it was difficult to estimate how much more business his company would get if it is awarded a contract to
serve the prison if the federal government takes over.
The city of Pekin has benefited from the federal prison located there, said Bill Fleming, executive
director of the Pekin Area Chamber of Commerce.
Fleming said the prison, which includes a medium-security unit for men and a minimum-security unit
for women, has been a good corporate partner with the city since it opened in 1994.
While some politicians and local residents have expressed concern about the Thomson prison plan to
send terrorism suspects from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the Thomson prison, Fleming said Pekin residents also expressed concerns
about the safety before the prison there was built.
“(Now), I don’t think you could find a person in town who would think it was a bad thing,”
Doug Wiersema, president and CEO of the Rock Falls Chamber of Commerce, said opening the Thomson prison
could have economic benefits in his city, particularly for businesses that could bid for contracts with the prison. Wiersema
said he was dismayed at how some politicians have reacted to the plan.
“The disappointment in this whole thing is that this has become one more political football,”
he said. “Quite honestly, that stinks. That’s why nothing gets done in this country.”
Several economic development leaders in the area said they think they have adequate housing in the
area to support any increase in need, while Komiskey said there is land at the former Army Depot site suitable to build housing,
commercial or industrial developments needed to support the prison.
Steve Clark, chief of the master planning division at the Rock Island Arsenal, said any military personnel
stationed at the prison would be eligible to participate in an Arsenal program that leases homes in the community for military
personnel to use.
Clark said the Arsenal leases about 50 homes in the Iowa and Illinois Quad-Cities, more than enough
to meet its current needs.
Komiskey said she asked federal officials who visited Thomson recently if there was anything the community
needed to support the prison that didn’t already exist and was told the community has everything the prison would need.
She said talk of the jobs and money the federal takeover of the prison would bring to the community
has created an “exciting time,” she knows nothing has been decided yet.
“I’m urging people to be cautious,” she said.
Projected economic impact of federal prison plan
Within three years, the plan could create 3,170 to 3,870 jobs in a seven-county area — Carroll, Whiteside,
Jo Daviess, Lee and Rock Island counties in Illinois and Clinton and Jackson counties in Iowa.
About 80 percent of the jobs created by the prison would be in Illinois.
The Department of Defense would operate 25 percent of the facility and employ 1,000 to 1,500 people. One-third
of those would be civilian government employees or private contractors earning $80,000 to $90,000 per year. The rest would
be military personnel. The Department of Defense expects few of its direct-hire employees will come from the local area.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons would operate 75 percent of the facility and have 900 employees, half of them
corrections officers. Corrections officers are expected to earn $82,000 in the first year, including benefits. Other staff
would earn about $93,000 in the first year.
The Department of Defense projects there would be about 200 outside visitors at the facility on any given
day, including attorneys and media. The Bureau of Prisons projects about 100 visitors per day once the facility is fully operational
in its third year. The visitors are expected to inject $3 million a year into the local economy.
Durbin to host briefing on sending Guantanamo detainees to Illinois
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) will host a closed-door briefing with his state’s congressional
delegation on Wednesday about sending Guantanamo detainees to an Illinois prison.
Durbin invited his state’s
19 House members and Sen. Roland Burris (D) to the lawmaker-only briefing, according to an e-mail obtained by The Hill.
briefing was organized to garner information about sending detainees held in Guantanamo to Thomson State Correctional facility
in Northwest Illinois.
The Obama administration is looking at buying the nearly empty Thomson Correctional Center in western Illinois
to use as a maximum security prison for Guantanamo detainees.
Those invited to the briefing hosted by Durbin were advised
that Pentagon and Justice Department officials will be on hand along with Illinois state officials “to discuss the state’s
Thomson Correctional Center as a possible site for a new federal maximum security prison which would also house a limited
number of Guantanamo Bay detainees,” according to the e-mail.
Wednesday’s meeting will be the first such
briefing hosted for all 21 Illinois federal elected officials since word spread two weeks ago of the administration’s
interest in transferring Guantanamo inmates to Illinois.
Durbin and Gov. Pat Quinn (Ill.) were quick to support the
plan under consideration by the administration when officials from the Defense Department and federal Bureau of Prisons toured
the facility in mid-November.
GOP lawmakers from Illinois led by Rep. Mark Kirk, who is currently running for the senate
seat being vacated by Burris in 2010, howled in protest. Kirk and fellow GOP Illinois Reps. Aaron Schock, Pete Roskam, Tim
Johnson, Mark Kirk, John Shimkus, Judy Biggert and Don Manzullo introduced legislation to ban funding the transfer of detainees
from Guantanamo to the U.S.
Durbin and Quinn have maintained that selling off the little-used brand new state prison
facility would bring jobs to an area devastated by the economy.
Stupak touches on prison issues during healthcare-centered town hall
STANDISH -- Rep. Bart Stupak (D - Menominee) was in Standish Monday night to discuss healthcare legislation
passed in the United States House of Representatives, but Standish Max wasn't left out of the night's dialogue.
He said when it comes to the federal government using the empty prison as a replacement for Guantanamo Bay
or to hold federal prisoners in general, the issue isn't progressing.
"There's never been a proposal," Stupak said. "There's never been a plan offered."
The Congressman also addressed some of the rumors circulating about eminent domain were the feds to purchase
the facility. He said the prison and the surrounding area are property of the state of Michigan, and would be so until a federal
department makes an offer to buy or lease the Standish Maximum Correctional Facility.
Also, Stupak talked about a prison in Thomson, Ill. that is now being targeted as a Gitmo replacement, saying
it has "a lot of momentum right now." Officials in reports have said this location would provide about 3,000 jobs, however,
the number put forth by officials in Standish, who said they got the number from Department of Defense officials, was 1,000.
Stupak said both of these numbers are unfounded, since no proposal has been put forth for either prison.
But he said he's still hoping the Federal Bureau of Prisons, one government agency represented at an Aug.
13 site visit of the prison, will respond to a letter he sent it.
"I reminded them that we still have a prison you're (BOP) very impressed with," Stupak said.
While the Standish Max dilemma received attention, the night belonged to healthcare. Most who stepped up to
the microphones at the town hall expressed dissatisfaction with the House Bill, H.R. 3962, which was recently sent to the
United States Senate.
Most opposed said they were upset with the bill's passage and concerned it would lead to higher taxes and
ultimately be a failed government program. Comments ranged from people expressing anger about paying for "deadbeats" and others
said countries that have national healthcare programs, such as Canada and England, are learning the systems are seriously
flawed. Some who were opposed to the passage acknowledged that healthcare needed to be fixed, but said other methods like
fixing problems with medical malpractice lawsuits and letting people purchase insurance across state lines.
Stupak also presented a slide show presentation prior to fielding questions. During the slide presentation,
he said H.R. 3962 would provide insurance to 50,000 people in Michigan's First Congressional District and 1,100 families could
avoid bankruptcy, amongst other things.
Inmates Assault Guards at Federal Prison in Inez
Three guards at the Big Sandy Federal Prison in Inez were assaulted by
four inmates during a routine search of an inmate housing unit.
Philip Heffington, a Bureau of Prisons spokesperson, tells WSAZ.com that the
incident happened about 2:00 p.m. Sunday. He says additional staff responded and quickly contained the situation.
Heffington says the three guards were taken to a local hospital for treatment and later released. He says
the four inmates involved in the assault were not hurt.
The prison was placed in lock down following the incident.
The F.B.I. was notified and an investigation into the incident is underway
Dodd, DeLauro to Offer Emergency H1N1 Sick Days Bill
Dr. Anne Schuchat, an official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
testified that the CDC advises people to stay home from work for three to five days if they come down with swine flu. The
organization encourages employers to institute flexible leave policies ‘so it’s easy for your employees to do
the right thing.’
Two leading members of Congress on the issue of employee leave will team up
to write a bill that would provide paid time off for workers who contract the H1N1 flu.
Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Connecticut and chair of the Senate health subcommittee on children and
families, announced at a hearing Tuesday, November 10, that he and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Connecticut, intend to formally introduce
the legislation in coming weeks.
He and DeLauro portrayed paid sick leave as the best way for workers to follow government directives
to stay home if they fall ill.
“This isn’t just a workers’ rights issue—it’s a public health emergency,”
said Dodd, who was the author of the Family and Medical Leave Act. “Families shouldn’t have to choose between
staying healthy and making ends meet.”
Dr. Anne Schuchat, assistant surgeon general and an official at the Center for Disease Control
and Prevention, testified that the CDC advises people to stay home from work for three to five days if they come down with
The organization encourages employers to institute flexible leave policies “so it’s
easy for your employees to do the right thing,” Schuchat said.
But DeLauro argued that 57 million workers lack paid sick days and “following this critical
advice is virtually impossible for far too many Americans right now.”
The Dodd-DeLauro measure will be based on a bill, the Healthy Families Act , that DeLauro unveiled
earlier this year. At the Senate hearing, Deputy Labor Secretary Seth Harris said the Obama administration supports HFA.
Like that proposal, the emergency legislation will provide up to seven paid sick days for workers
who contract H1N1 flu—also known as swine flu—or who need to care for a sick child.
The bill will be an alternative to an emergency sick days measure introduced on November 3 by
Rep. George Miller, D-California and chair of the House Education and Labor Committee. Miller’s bill would provide five
days of leave.
Another key difference between the two is that under Miller’s bill, the sick days would
go into effect if an employer tells a worker to go home or stay home. Under the Dodd/DeLauro bill, an employee would decide
when to use the days.
Both bills would go into effect within weeks of being signed into law and would sunset after two
DeLauro, a critic of the Miller bill, said that her and Dodd’s measure hews to the “core
principals” of the Healthy Families Act and will gain the backing of the same 121 House members and 21 senators who
have co-sponsored HFA.
“I think we will get substantial support because we have substantial support for the Healthy
Families Act right now,” DeLauro said in an interview.
A hearing witness representing the Society for Human Resource Management, however, cautioned that
the bill poses potential burdens for companies.
“SHRM has strong concerns with the one-size-fits-all mandate encompassed in the Healthy
Families Act,” said Elissa O’Brien, vice president of human resources at Wingate Healthcare in Needham, Massachusetts.
“At a time when employers are facing unprecedented challenges, imposing a costly paid leave mandate on employers could
easily result in additional job loss or cuts in other important employee benefits.”
O’Brien’s organization provides its 4,000 employees with up to 33 days of paid leave
each year that they can use for any purpose. A survey of SHRM members this year showed that 81 percent offer some form of
She asserted that the HFA would disrupt paid leave programs if they fail to meet standards outlined
in the bill.
Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyoming and the ranking member of the Senate health committee, asked DeLauro
whether the bill addressed policies like compensating workers for unused sick time, allowing the use of partial and intermittent
leave, and letting workers carry leave over to the next year.
“Those are the details that can get worked out,” DeLauro said.
Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women and Families, testified that companies
with leave programs like Wingate’s would not be affected by HFA.
“We want this to be something that works well for employers and employees,” Ness said.
SHRM is promoting an alternative to HFA that revolves around exempting companies from federal
leave law if they work out flexible leave arrangements with their employees.
Mike Aitken, SHRM director of government relations, is wary of the emergency sick leave proposal.
“It’s not clear how it interacts with current employer policies,” Aitken said.
Quinn, Durbin ridicule GOP
opposition to Gitmo transfers
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and Gov. Quinn today ridiculed mounting GOP opposition to
President Obama’s plan to transfer inmates from Guantanamo Bay to a near-vacant prison in northwestern Illinois .
Several Illinois lawmakers say the Chicago area would become a terrorist
target if Guantanamo Bay detainees are moved to a prison in Thomson, 150 miles west of Chicago .
U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.),
who is running for Obama’s old Senate seat, said he intends to ask Congress to assess potential security risks the move
may pose to O’Hare International Airport and Willis Tower .
“Some of the criticism
about this decision has crossed the line,” Durbin said. “Talking about actual buildings as targets in Chicago
? Please, that doesn’t do any good. Speculation on where the terrorists might strike next, does that really help us
as a nation? I don’t think it does.”
Quinn said Illinoisans have
a duty to support using the near-vacant Thomson Correctional Center as a place to house roughly 100 Guantanamo Bay detainees
who are accused of terrorism.
“We’re not going
to have a bunch of nay-saying congressmen who are fearful lead us astray,” Quinn said. “The he people of Illinois
will do whatever is necessary to bring the perpetrators of terrorism to justice, and this is part of the job.”
Quinn sidestepped a question
about how much a purchase of Thomson by the federal government might yield the state, though the Chicago Sun-Times was told
over the weekend by a source close to the negotiations the state’s windfall from a sale could approach $200 million.
Any money that might come to
the cash-starved state from a sale of Thomson should be reinvested in statewide construction needs, Quinn said.
have to pass a law about the proceeds. But I think something we ought to consider is . . . it’s a long-term capital
expense we had to begin with. We’d probably use that for capital expenditures.”
to inspect Ill jail for Gitmo inmates
THOMSON, Ill. —
Federal officials are due to arrive in rural northwest Illinois to inspect a prison that could be bought by the federal government
and used to house Guantanamo Bay detainees.
Officials from the Federal Bureau
of Prisons and the Department of Defense are expected Monday at the Thomson Correctional Center . It's about 150 miles west
of Chicago .
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and U.S.
Sen. Dick Durbin say the potential sale could help create about 3,000 jobs in the economically depressed area.
But critics, including Republican
members of Congress from Illinois , have been quick to condemn the prospect of the sale because of safety concerns.
Federal officials are considering
Thomson along with a facility in Florence , Colo. and a site in Hardin , Montana .
Closing Gitmo: Feds Eye State and Military Prisons for Detainees
Officials Expect Dozens Of 'Enemy Combatants' to Be Distributed Across Country
By DEVIN DWYER and JASON RYAN
Nov. 16, 2009—
As the Obama administration's January deadline to close the detention camp at Guantanamo
Bay looms, officials are developing plans for the more than 200 detainees still held there, including their possible distribution
to civilian and military prisons across the country.
Attorney General Eric Holder Friday said
the United States would bring five Gitmo detainees, including four alleged 9/11 conspirators, to New York City to stand trial
in federal court. Holder also said that five suspects would be tried before revamped military commissions.
Roughly 40 to 50 more prisoners from the U.S. Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba will be
transferred to the United States , prosecuted in federal court or before a military tribunal, officials say. And at least
100 detainees have been approved for transfer to other countries.
The United States is actively negotiating additional transfer arrangements in pursuit
of its self-imposed deadline, administration officials said.
That leaves 70 to 80 men considered too dangerous for release but whom the administration
neither plans to charge in federal or military courts nor transfer to foreign countries.
The hope is that all but 10 to 30 of the unresolved cases will eventually be brought for
prosecution or transferred abroad, officials said. A number of Yemeni and Afghan detainees are expected to remain indefinitely
in "enemy combatant" status.
Those prisoners, officials say, will likely be distributed to several prisons and military installations throughout the country with none of the facilities having to completely shoulder the load.
Among the leading state prisons being considered to house detainees is Illinois' Thomson Correctional Center, a maximum-security prison complex 150 miles south of Chicago .
Feds Eye State Prisons for Gitmo Detainees
The Thomson facility has been underutilized since opening in 2001 and state officials,
including Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and U.S. Sen. Richard
"Dick" Durbin, both Democrats, see the chance to house
Gitmo detainees there as an opportunity to create much-needed jobs, both at the prison and in the surrounding area.
Other communities, from the tiny town of Hardin , Mont. , to recession-struck Standish
, Mich. , have also been attracted to the potential economic boost and have actively lobbied the government to bring the high-level
The Standish City Council
recently passed a unanimous resolution expressing interest in having a federal prison at the Standish Max Correctional facility,
which has faced closure because of budget cuts.
in Standish and elsewhere across the country have expressed
skepticism about the prospect of their communities becoming the Gitmo detainees' new hometowns.
"There are just too many things that could go wrong," said Tom Kerrins, chief of the Michigan
correction officers union. "The problem I have is ... you almost are putting a bull's-eye on the whole entire area."
In Illinois , GOP Rep. Mark Kirk has warned in a public letter, "We should not invite
Al Qaeda to make Illinois its No. 1 target."
But advocates for the adoption of Gitmo detainees in state prisons point to the federal
maximum-security prison in Marion, Ill., which already houses 35 convicted terror suspects, as proof that such inmates can
be held and at little danger to surrounding communities.
Federal officials have also been considering Colorado 's so-called supermax prison, south
of Denver , for placement of some of the detainees.
The prison is already home to Oklahoma City bombing co-conspirator Terry Nichols, Atlanta
Olympics bomber Eric Rudolph, 9/ 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, 1993 World Trade Center bombing mastermind Ramzi Yousef
and failed airline shoe bomber Richard Reid.
U.S. Military Prisons Among Those to Replace Gitmo
Aside from state correctional facilities, the Obama administration is considering a list
of U.S. military bases that could house some of the detainees. Among the options are Camp Pendleton in California , Fort Leavenworth
in Kansas and the U.S. Naval Consolidated Brig in Charleston , S.C.
Representatives from the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, U.S. Marshals Service and other agencies
have conducted site visits at the brig in Charleston and consider the military complex a viable option, according to two administration
Officials had also considered Fort Leavenworth in Kansas but have recently shied away
from that option.
The congressional delegation from Kansas, led by Sens. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., and Pat
Roberts, R-Kan., has fiercely opposed using the military compound north of Kansas City as home for detainees.
In August, the senators placed legislative holds on Justice Department and Pentagon political
appointees who were awaiting Senate confirmation to force the administration to provide information about its plans and prevent
Leavenworth from being one of the chosen locations.
A month later, the Kansas senators said they had released the holds on the nominees after
discussions with senior administration officials.
"We believe that the administration has a good understanding of obstacles and concerns
and is giving them proper consideration," the senators said in a joint statement. "In a good faith effort to continue moving
this dialogue forward, we are releasing our holds on all Department of Defense and Department of Justice nominees. We are
confident that because of this good faith dialogue, detainees will not be transferred to Fort Leavenworth ."
One major consideration that remains unresolved in the placement process is how state
prisons and military installations will handle staffing of the facility or at courthouses where potential trials would take
place, according to the Justice Department and federal law enforcement officials.
While there have been no specific funding requests
made yet to the federal government, officials said, the cost of holding detainees on U.S. soil is likely to be a matter of
concern for states, many already facing significant
Illinois prison top contender to house Gitmo detainees, official says
Washington (CNN) -- A prison in northern Illinois is the leading contender to house
some detainees transferred from the federal facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, two Obama administration officials told CNN
Officials from the department of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security and federal Bureau of Prisons
will be will be visiting the maximum-security Thomson Correctional Center, about 150 miles west of Chicago, on Monday, the
Earlier Saturday, a statement from Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn's office said senior Obama administration
officials would be visiting the Thomson prison to see whether the "virtually vacant, state of the art facility" could be of
use to the Bureau of Prisons.
The statement didn't mention the space possibly being utilized for Guantanamo detainees, but said
that overcrowding is a "serious issue and one of the reasons why the Bureau of Prisons is interested in viewing Thomson Correction
Quinn, whose administration hopes to generate jobs and economic growth in Thomson through the prison,
was scheduled to speak on the visit Monday.
If the Bureau of Prisons purchases the 1,600-cell site, it would operate primarily as a federal
prison and lease a portion of it to the Defense Department to house a limited number of Guantanamo detainees, one Obama administration
There are about 215 men held by the U.S. military at the Guantanamo prison camp. Among the detainees
are five suspects with alleged ties to the 9/11 conspiracy, including accused mastermind Khalid
Sheikh Mohammed, who will be transferred to New York to go on trial in civilian court,
Attorney General Eric Holder announced Friday.
As part of the conversion at Thomson, the same Obama official added, the Bureau of Prisons and Defense
Department would enhance security measures to exceed those of the nation's only supermax prison -- the U.S. Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility in Florence, Colorado. No inmate has ever escaped
from the prison.
The likelihood of Thomson being tapped to house Guantanamo detainees was first reported by the Chicago
Tribune on Saturday, and sparked immediate concern from critics of the Obama administration.
U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk, R-Illinois, whose district covers suburban Chicago, circulated a letter addressed
to President Obama to Illinois leaders Saturday, opposing the possible transfer of detainees. The letter says that doing so
would turn metropolitan Chicago into "ground zero for Jihadist terrorist plots, recruitment and radicalization."
As home to Chicago's Willis (formerly Sears) Tower -- the nation's tallest building -- "we should
not invite Al Qaeda to make Illinois its number one target," said the statement by Kirk, who is running for the same Senate
seat once held by Obama.
"The United States spent more than $50 million to build the Guantanamo Bay detention facility to
keep terrorists away from U.S. soil. Al Qaeda terrorists should stay where they cannot endanger American citizens."
The Obama administration has vowed to close the Guantanamo facility, but acknowledges it is unlikely to happen by its self-imposed January 22, 2010, deadline.
However, one of the two Obama administration officials speaking to CNN Saturday said that, coupled
with the announced transfer of the alleged 9/11 conspirator, the likely developments at the Thomson prison are "good progress"
toward closing the Guantanamo site.
The federal prison system currently houses approximately 340 inmates linked to international terrorism,
including more than 200 tied to international incidents, the other Obama official said.
Of the total number, 35 inmates are housed in federal prisons in Illinois, including
Ali al-Marri, who pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiring to provide material support to al
Qaeda. Al-Marri is serving eight years and four months at the federal penitentiary in
A state prison inmate allegedly slashed the throat of one correctional officer and stabbed another in the
cheek with a homemade weapon Wednesday night at the Souza-Baranowksi Correction Center in Shirley after being told he would
be forced to double-bunk with another inmate, according to a union official.
"The inmate is alleging that he was told he would get a single cell when he was released from the segregation unit. ...
When he was told he wasn't on the list...he pulled out a shank and just started stabbing the officers,'' said Steve Kenneway,
president of the Massachusetts Correction Officers Federated Union.
The officer whose throat was slashed "was dragged to safety by the other officer who was already stabbed; it was a pretty
heroic action,'' said Kenneway, adding that the officers were both released from the hospital early this morning after treatment
for their wounds and were lucky to be alive. Two other correctional officers suffered minor injuries when the inmate allegedly
assaulted them as they removed him from the housing unit, according to officials.
Diane Wiffin, a spokeswoman for the Department of Correction, confirmed that four correctional officers were injured during
a confrontation with an inmate and called their injuries "non-life-threatening.''
Citing privacy laws, she would not comment on whether the inmate became enraged after being told he would be forced to
share a cell with another inmate.
Kenneway and a lawyer who heads an agency that provides legal representation to inmates
said the incident was just the latest in a string of violent episodes at the Souza-Baranowski facility since the Patrick administration
made it the state's only maximum-security prison and then, in January, started double-bunking some inmates.
the prison "out of control,'' Kenneway said, "This policy of double-bunking has caused chaos and this administration is incapable
of admitting it's a bad plan."
Kenneway said there have been 30 to 40 assaults on correctional officers at the Souza-Baranowski
prison since double-bunking began 10 months ago, and that in the first 18 days of October, officers confiscated 75 weapons
The union plans to file a complaint in court to seek an order that would stop double-bunking at the facility,
"It's dangerous. It's going to lead to the death of an officer or an inmate or both,'' Kenneway said.
On Oct. 8, an inmate was stabbed 32 times, said Leslie Walker, executive director of Massachusetts Correctional Legal Services,
who represents the inmate.
"This facility is full of violence,'' Walker said. "There are a number of people who are fearful they are going to be hurt
while double-bunked or walking down a hallway.''
Wiffin said statistics were not readily available on the number of assaults on officers or inmates at the Souza-Baranowski
facility or the number of weapons confiscated there this year. She told the Globe to file a public records request for statistics.
Wiffin defended the double-bunking plan, calling it "industry standard'' in prisons nationwide.
"Prisons are dangerous places, there are dangerous inmates in them," Wiffin said. She said that a "mission change," which
includes double-bunking at Souza-Baranowski, "has and will continue to result in a decrease in violence department-wide."
housing unit where the alleged assault occurred was placed in lockdown Wednesday, Wiffin said. The unit houses 84 inmates,
Kenneway blasted the department, saying officials should have ordered a prison-wide lockdown to send a message
that violence against officers and staff will not be tolerated.
Obama's pending EO is not only evidence of
LR climate change
By Herb Levine, cyber FEDS® Correspondent
HR OBSERVER: The
administration's draft executive order on federal labor
relations has attracted a lot of attention. I thought I'd wait until the EO was actually issued before adding my comments,
but a recent Federal Labor Relations Authority decision changed
This seems like a good time to consider what has already changed in the LR climate under the Obama administration,
before we get caught up in the EO.
A new FLRA
Bush, our reports of FLRA decisions routinely contained the statement: "Member Carol Waller Pope dissented,"
especially when the majority seemed to limit union rights. But Pope is now FLRA chair and new member Ernest DuBester,
who served under President Clinton
as chair of the National Mediation Board,
has a background as union counsel.
In the decision that prompted this column, 355th MSG/CC, Davis Monthan Air Force
Base and AFGE Local 2924, 109 LRP 61687 , 64 FLRA No. 14 (FLRA 09/28/09), the FLRA appeared to reject its previous distinction
between changes in conditions of employment, as defined under 5 USC 7103 (a)(14), and the working conditions of individual
employees. The result, according to legal editor Jim Carroll, "may be a significant expansion of the duty to bargain."
decision was supported by all three members of the FLRA, including Bush appointee Thomas Beck.
Now that the FLRA is fully staffed at the top, with
a new chair and member, an all-new FSIP and a new general counsel, we can expect our trends picture to be filled out soon.
On the revamped FLRA Web site, Pope points to a flood of new decisions, and emphasizes a reenergized Office of the General
Counsel and Collaboration and Alternative Dispute Resolution Office. She promises practitioners, "We
can train you, help facilitate your disputes and offer you alternative means to litigation to work out your problems. And
in those cases where you are unable to resolve your dispute, we are prepared to provide you a timely, quality decision."
message to agencies
If we combine the FLRA's decision in 355th MSG/CC and Pope's mission statement with
the labor-management forums, nonadversarial approaches, and permissive bargaining pilots envisioned by the draft EO, the
message to agencies is clear: Engage your unions and try to settle any disputes. If you can't or won't, don't expect the backup
you got under Bush.
The White House has listened to management fears. There
is no blanket mandatory bargaining of permissive subjects in the draft EO, and the EO cannot be enforced through litigation.
The emphasis is on cooperation and ADR rather than expanded bargaining. The Labor-Management Council would be co-chaired by
the OPM director and the head of the Office of Management and Budget.
Unions haven't yet gotten all they wanted.
Living with 'climate change'
This is the new Labor climate. Will
it really be worse for agencies, when compared with the Bush years?
Unions do not have to rely on a friendly FLRA
or administration. Thanks to the courts and Congress, most Bush-era initiatives designed to make government more responsive
to agency management and reduce union influence were crippled or reversed well before Obama took office.
public sector labor-management cooperation have been successful , even under Clinton. Former Governor Tommy Thompson tried to duplicate his partnership
success in Wisconsin when
he took over the Department of Health
and Human Services in 2001, only to be reined in by the Bush White House and told to get on message.
may be time for agency managers to get on message with the Obama White House, with the help of their LR practitioners. It won't be easy, but this climate change
could work out for the best.
Penitentiary inmates are 'worst of worst'
LEWISBURG — The Lewisburg Penitentiary guard stabbed twice in a melee Sunday is out of danger,
but the staffing situation at the institution is critical.
Warden B.A. Bledsoe won’t come to the phone and federal Bureau of Prisons officials in Washington,
D.C., send numbers meant to be comforting, but those inside the penitentiary talk frankly.
Since January, Lewisburg has received “the worst of the worst” criminals, while dropping
the security procedures that held them at bay elsewhere, said Daniel Bensinger, a veteran corrections officer and president
of Local 148 of the American Federation of Government Employees.
Whenever one of these vicious inmates was moved from a cell to showers or elsewhere inside previous
institutions, it was with three guards.
“One officer on the left, one of his right and one behind with some sort of night stick,”
Bensinger said. “Today, at Lewisburg, we have one staff escorting one inmate.” And some of those guards, he said,
have little or no relevant training.
Some of them are “augmentation” personnel, drawn from the ranks of secretaries, social
workers and other civilians.
In Sunday’s incident, Bensinger said, two brand new officers were opening the door to a cell
that housed two inmates. The prisoners rushed the door and flung it out, and the officers jumped back. Then one prisoner,
with his hands cuffed behind his back, body slammed one of the guards, Bensinger said.
Being willing to tear up his wrists, the other prisoner had gotten his cuffs off. He pulled a handmade
weapon and stabbed the other guard. The weapon, Bensinger said, was crafted from the button that turned on the hot water in
the sink and its inner shaft. It was about the size of a pen, and Bensinger said another officer estimated one and a half
to two inches of it could have punctured the officer’s skin.
The guard was treated at a hospital and released, Bensinger said. Four other officers who tried
to come to the rescue also were injured, but less severely. One officer, with a baton, knocked the weapon out of the prisoner’s
hand and got him to the ground.
The cuffed inmate ran down the hallway, where he fought with other officers.
It was the second violent incident at the Kelly Township institution in less than a week.
Bensinger, who has been a corrections officer for 24 years, said staffing levels at the penitentiary
are dangerously low.
Traci Billingsley, spokesman for the Bureau of Prisons in Washington, and her counterpart at Lewisburg,
Scott Finley, sent e-mails with the same wording Monday: “... Staffing levels have increased at Lewisburg ... and currently
the Correctional Services Department has 95.6 percent of their positions filled.”
“That’s because management sets the number they feel is 100 percent,” Bensinger
said. “They set it at 294. But that’s not what the union would call 100 percent. We need 350 to do the job.”
On Monday, 264 were employed, he said.
Billingsley and Finley also said: “Overall, the inmate to staff ratio is 3-to-1, which compares
favorably with the bureau’s overall inmate to staff ratio at penitentiaries, which is 4-to-1.”
Bensinger said: “There are about 1,200 staff and 400 inmates, but among ‘staff,’
they are counting food service personnel, educators and workers in recreation, maintenance and medical care. When we open
the door to a cell, that doesn’t give us three officers to each prisoner. The dentist is in the dentist’s office.”
He said management just designated six troublesome inmates out of the entire population for “three-man
The union is saying, he said, that all of the inmates need the designation. “We need three
officers to one inmate to face this caliber of violent prisoner.”
Bensinger has seen the conditions at Lewisburg change.
“It’s making the other prisoners safer,” said Keith Hill, national vice president
of the AFGE for District 3, which includes Pennsylvania. About six weeks ago, Bensinger gave Hill a tour.
During a shakedown in the cafeteria, they found two dozen weapons. They were hidden behind the end
caps of tables, in kitchenware and in appliances. They also were found in the drain, on top of the oven and behind the sink.
Most prisoners, he said, make some kind of weapon to protect themselves from other inmates. “The
group we are now housing use them on the staff,” he said.
They are fashioned from just about anything, too, including bed parts and the tips of batteries.
At the prisoners’ former institutions, he said, procedures included X-rays for metal hidden
in the body. At Lewisburg, there’s a metal detector in the hallway, Bensinger said, but no one to monitor it.
There also is no one to gather intelligence on who’s making weapons.
Hill said 150 inmates being watched by one corrections officer is ludicrous. He said they carry
“no mace, nothing for self-protection but a walkie-talkie.”
He said Pennsylvania’s senators and congressmen know of the problem and are working to get
the funds for adequate staffing, but politics is a slow business.
Warden Bledsoe and Harley Lappin, Bureau of Prisons director, are not making waves, Bensinger said,
because they are “good soldiers.”
You’ll never hear them say they’re understaffed, he said. “They fear for their
jobs too,” he added.
Secretaries and clerks put up with being asked to do dangerous inmate supervision because they have
seniority to protect and families to support, he said.
Recently, Bensinger said, he witnessed one of the “augmentation” staff trying to find
a key to open a door. “She must have had 30 keys on a key ring, and it took her five to seven minutes to find the right
one. There were two corrections officers behind that door. If something had broken out, they’d be dead.”
Last year, corrections officer Jose Rivera was stabbed to death at the U.S. Penitentiary in Atwater,
Calif. On Saturday, an improvised explosive device went off inside the Victorville Federal Penitentiary in California. No
one was injured in that incident, Billingsley said, but it detonated upon discovery during a routine search.
Hill and Bensinger said the AFGE had high hopes that the Obama administration would replace Lappin,
a Bush administration appointee. So far, it hasn’t happened. Meanwhile, 7,600 new prisoners are expected in the system
next year, Hill said. A new prison will house up to 1,500 of those, but there will be 6,000 more to be absorbed elsewhere.
Sen. Arlen Specter wrote to Lappin early in October, backing AFGE suggestions, including equipping
officers with nonlethal weapons to defend themselves, like pepper spray, and supplying stab-proof vests.
Specter is on the Senate Appropriations Committee, which would be involved in securing funding for
hiring more prison staff. U.S. Rep. Chris Carney has petitioned the House Appropriations Committee to earmark more than $1
billion in extra federal corrections funds.
According to union figures, 9,000 new corrections officers need to be hired across the nation to
bring staffing to 100 percent, or the level it considers safe.
Bensinger said: “Ask the public to say a prayer to protect their officers and to give lawmakers
the wisdom they need.”
2 inmates injure 5 guards
By Marcia Moore
LEWISBURG — A U.S. Penitentiary at Lewisburg staff member was assaulted by two inmates and
four officers were injured responding to the attack Sunday morning, the second violent incident at the prison in less than
An unidentified staff member suffered two puncture wounds to the lower back and superficial
wounds across the chest and lower abdomen in the 7:50 a.m. assault by two inmates, according to a statement released by prison
spokesman Scott Finley.
Four officers who responded to the attack were also hurt and required medical treatment,
one for a knee injury, one for a rib injury, another for an elbow injury and the fourth for a cut on the elbow, the statement
said. The two inmates were treated at the prison for abrasions.
The statement did not say what type of weapon was used by the inmates, and no other
details were released.
Finley said the prison remains secure and is operating under a lock-down status.
It was the 45th violent incident at the prison this year and is being investigated by
the FBI. The most recent attack occurred on Tuesday, when an inmate stabbed a guard in the thigh with a spear made of rolled-up
newspaper and magazines and a metal tip held on with dental floss .
“It’s unfortunate to say, but I wasn’t surprised,” said Tony
Liesenfeld, secretary/treasurer of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 148.
The union has complained for months that inadequate staffing is putting officers at
Liesenfeld, who met the guards at the hospital where they were treated early Sunday,
said each of them “acted appropriately” and attributed the assault to the lack of adequate staffing.
“Hopefully we can get this situation addressed before someone is killed,”
he said, adding that local management has echoed the union’s request for more staff.
There are presently 264 guards at the penitentiary, overseeing 1,089 inmates, many of
whom are among the country’s most violent prisoners. Inmates are held up to 23 hours a day in a cell.
Due to the low number of staff, Liesenfeld said, each prisoner is escorted to and from
the cell by a single guard, even though similar prisons across the country employ up to three guards per inmate for the same
It also limits the frequency of cell searches, he said.
Fed Prison understaffed, Union charges
Wayne County -
Is USP Canaan understaffed? It depends on who you ask.
Russell G. Reuthe, Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) Employee Services Manager, says, “Presently, staffing
at U.S.P. Canaan is adequate. The inmate to staff ratio at U.S.P. Canaan is 4:1, which compares favorably to the BOP overall
which is 4.9:1. U.S.P. Canaan staff are highly trained and professional and will continue to provide a safe and secure environment
for the inmates and the community.”
However, a representative of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), the union that represents
federal correctional officers throughout the BOP, disagrees. “I know they’re understaffed. All federal penitentiaries
are understaffed,” says Keith Hill, National Vice President for AFGE, District 3.
Bill Gillette, North East Regional Vice President, Council of Prison Locals, says, “Based on the
hour of the day, staffing ratios vary greatly. There could be times when the ratio could be as high as one staff for every
Two anonymous letters, as well as two emails were recently received by The Wayne Independent, stating a
concern over under-staffing and safety. “We are all nervous, scared and greatly concerned for our safety as well as
the safety of the public,” one letter states. It refers to six outside guard towers (perimeter control), how only three
are ever staffed, and of those: only two are staffed 24-hours a day. The writer refers to the 18 officers that would need
to be hired to man the towers around the clock, figuring it would cost about $500,000 as opposed to the electric fence being
put up at a cost of “approximately $20 million.”
Asked about the fencing, Reuthe said, “In an effort to continue and maintain a safe environment for
the staff, inmates and the community, at times it is necessary to enhance security measures. Placement of additional fences
will provide greater levels of security, these fences are visible and are intended to serve as barriers (both non-lethal and
lethal) and are placed between the existing perimeter and interior fences. It is anticipated that this new technology will
serve as additional security, help deter potential escapes, and allow the institution to operate more cost effectively, as
well as greatly enhance the safety of the community at large.”
No batons, pepper spray “Unlike state prisons, we do not have any protective equipment to help
us. No batons, pepper spray, nothing but a radio,” the anonymous letter says.
Hill says, “AFGE and AFGE BOP Council have been pushing to get pepper spray authorized for use as
minimal personal protection for corrections officers, but so far we've met nothing but management resistance. I don't know
why there is so much resistance to protecting the lives of the officers. The pepper spray wasn't suggested to be used as a
weapon by the officers it was suggested to give the officers time to escape a situation in which they could be injured or
killed. They aren't equipped to defend themselves at all. They have a ‘PANIC BUTTON’ on their radio that can be
pressed in an emergency, or in case they're attacked. After that they pray someone gets there in time to help.”
Asked if the request for batons and pepper spray is unreasonable, Gillette said, “This has been a
hotly debated issue since the murder of one of our Officers at a California prison last year. Well, I'm not going to go into
great detail with what we have or don't have regarding safety equipment or protective gear, it would not be appropriate or
wise to speak of internal security practices, but I can say that we are not opposed to working with the agency in ensuring
that staff are given the tools necessary to protect themselves and the community they are sworn to serve, the above mentioned
items would be something we'd support.” Gillette said they have seen some “protective equipment upgrades recently.”
Officer Jose Rivera, USP Atwater, California, was killed June 20, 2008, after being assaulted by two inmates
with homemade weapons.
Not enough funding Gillette says it comes down to a lack of funding. “Currently the Bureau of Prisons
(BOP) are operating at 37 percent over it's rated capacity, some institutions as much as 89 percent. For the past several
years, the BOP has not received sufficient funds to be able to keep up with infrastructure needs or staffing. The BOP currently
has 39,399 authorized positions for Fiscal Year 2009, currently there are 34,333 employees on board resulting in a fill rate
of 87.1 percent.
“Being born and raised in Wayne County, I'm well aware of the importance of good paying jobs
and job security, whatever one’s views are regarding the prison or the system, I'd only ask that they keep in mind,
that as federal employees, we are tasked not only as protectors of the communities, but as stewards of the tax payers’
money, so as with any government agency, it's necessary to strike a balance between mission responsibilities and the granted
funding levels. But at times, it's not appropriate or wise to do more with less. It cost 140 million dollars to build USP
Canaan; all the towers, fencing, walls and protective devices available makes little difference if you don't have the trained
men and women to properly outfit it. Many local folks have been able to find employment at USP Canaan, and it will continue
to employee many others throughout the decades, but with adequate funding more people will get the opportunity to work at
the facility and support the local economy,” Gillette said.
MIKULSKI: DOD PROVISIONS A HARD FOUGHT VICTORY FOR FEDERAL EMPLOYEES
Senate passes bill to rollback and repeal punitive policies inherited from previous administration
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator
Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), a senior member of the Senate Appropriations
Committee, today announced the Fiscal Year 2010 Defense Authorization Conference Report includes several hard fought
victories for federal employees. The bill includes provisions to rollback and repeal policies from the previous administration
that forced federal employees to compete on an uneven playing field, often wasted taxpayer dollars, and were bad for morale
at federal agencies. The bill passed the Senate today, and now heads to the President to be signed into law.
The 2010 Defense Authorization Conference Report repeals the Bush Administration’s ill-conceived National Security Personnel System, or NSPS.
is a longtime critic of NSPS, which radically restructured the Department of Defense
personnel system and stripped collective
bargaining rights from civilian employees. In previous years, Congress limited how many workers could be included in
the NSPS system, and placed other restrictions on the controversial program.
“NSPS was a mistake from the get-go. They were rigged rules that redlined and sidelined our federal employees.
The Department of Defense needs to start over and design a personnel system
that respects workers’ rights to bargain and join unions, and rewards them for the contributions they make to our country’s
security,” Senator Mikulski said. “I’ve been fighting for years to throw this ill-conceived policy out.
Today, victory is ours.”
The 2010 Defense Authorization Conference Report also includes a provision to allow federal employees to convert unused
sick leave to retirement credit at the end of their careers. This will allow federal employees to increase their retirement
benefits by applying unused sick leave days.
“Our federal employees are on the front lines every day, working hard for America. These hardworking men and women
deserve to be treated fairly. They deserve a secure retirement and benefits that reflect their years of service to this country,”
Senator Mikulski said. “I’m proud Congress today voted to allow federal employees to convert unused sick leave
into retirement credit.”
Finally, the legislation includes a provision to prohibit the Department of
Defense from contracting-out until they significantly improve their oversight and tracking of the contracting-out process.
The bill also limits the contracting-out competition to two years.
“I promised federal employees that I would not stop my fight to protect them against unfair contracting-out policies.
Today, my promises made are promises kept,” Senator Mikulski said. “This legislation gives the DOD a ‘time
out’ so the Secretary can establish best practices and stop contracting out efforts that are causing more harm than
Fed Prison understaffed, Union charges
Wayne County -
Is USP Canaan understaffed? It depends on who you ask.
Russell G. Reuthe, Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) Employee Services Manager, says, “Presently, staffing at U.S.P.
Canaan is adequate. The inmate to staff ratio at U.S.P. Canaan is 4:1, which compares favorably to the BOP overall which is
4.9:1. U.S.P. Canaan staff are highly trained and professional and will continue to provide a safe and secure environment
for the inmates and the community.”
However, a representative of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), the union that represents federal
correctional officers throughout the BOP, disagrees. “I know they’re understaffed. All federal penitentiaries
are understaffed,” says Keith Hill, National Vice President for AFGE, District 3.
Bill Gillette, North East Regional Vice President, Council of Prison Locals, says, “Based on the hour of the
day, staffing ratios vary greatly. There could be times when the ratio could be as high as one staff for every 125-150 inmates.”
Two anonymous letters, as well as two emails were recently received by The Wayne Independent, stating a concern over
under-staffing and safety. “We are all nervous, scared and greatly concerned for our safety as well as the safety of
the public,” one letter states. It refers to six outside guard towers (perimeter control), how only three are ever staffed,
and of those: only two are staffed 24-hours a day. The writer refers to the 18 officers that would need to be hired to man
the towers around the clock, figuring it would cost about $500,000 as opposed to the electric fence being put up at a cost
of “approximately $20 million.”
Asked about the fencing, Reuthe said, “In an effort to continue and maintain a safe environment for the staff,
inmates and the community, at times it is necessary to enhance security measures. Placement of additional fences will provide
greater levels of security, these fences are visible and are intended to serve as barriers (both non-lethal and lethal) and
are placed between the existing perimeter and interior fences. It is anticipated that this new technology will serve as additional
security, help deter potential escapes, and allow the institution to operate more cost effectively, as well as greatly enhance
the safety of the community at large.”
No batons, pepper spray “Unlike state prisons, we do not have any protective equipment to
help us. No batons, pepper spray, nothing but a radio,” the anonymous letter says.
Hill says, “AFGE and AFGE BOP Council have been pushing to get pepper spray authorized for use as minimal personal
protection for corrections officers, but so far we've met nothing but management resistance. I don't know why there is so
much resistance to protecting the lives of the officers. The pepper spray wasn't suggested to be used as a weapon by the officers
it was suggested to give the officers time to escape a situation in which they could be injured or killed. They aren't equipped
to defend themselves at all. They have a ‘PANIC BUTTON’ on their radio that can be pressed in an emergency, or
in case they're attacked. After that they pray someone gets there in time to help.”
Asked if the request for batons and pepper spray is unreasonable, Gillette said, “This has been a hotly debated
issue since the murder of one of our Officers at a California prison last year. Well, I'm not going to go into great detail
with what we have or don't have regarding safety equipment or protective gear, it would not be appropriate or wise to speak
of internal security practices, but I can say that we are not opposed to working with the agency in ensuring that staff are
given the tools necessary to protect themselves and the community they are sworn to serve, the above mentioned items would
be something we'd support.” Gillette said they have seen some “protective equipment upgrades recently.”
Officer Jose Rivera, USP Atwater, California, was killed June 20, 2008, after being assaulted by two inmates with homemade
Not enough funding Gillette says it comes down to a lack of funding. “Currently the Bureau
of Prisons (BOP) are operating at 37 percent over it's rated capacity, some institutions as much as 89 percent. For the past
several years, the BOP has not received sufficient funds to be able to keep up with infrastructure needs or staffing. The
BOP currently has 39,399 authorized positions for Fiscal Year 2009, currently there are 34,333 employees on board resulting
in a fill rate of 87.1 percent.
“Being born and raised in Wayne County, I'm well aware of the importance of good paying jobs and job security,
whatever one’s views are regarding the prison or the system, I'd only ask that they keep in mind, that as federal employees,
we are tasked not only as protectors of the communities, but as stewards of the tax payers’ money, so as with any government
agency, it's necessary to strike a balance between mission responsibilities and the granted funding levels. But at times,
it's not appropriate or wise to do more with less. It cost 140 million dollars to build USP Canaan; all the towers, fencing,
walls and protective devices available makes little difference if you don't have the trained men and women to properly outfit
it. Many local folks have been able to find employment at USP Canaan, and it will continue to employee many others throughout
the decades, but with adequate funding more people will get the opportunity to work at the facility and support the local
economy,” Gillette said.
is being sent as a reminder to all TRULINCS institutions of the CorrLinks transition beginning Monday, October 5.On Monday, we will mass email all inmate email contacts an invitation to join CorrLinks.If the contact does not register prior to October 14, they will not be able to send email to or receive
email from inmates.
We have had
some inquiries regarding CorrLinks and based on these inquiries I want to clarify a few things:
public does not need to register with a credit card.
public can not add an inmate without the invitation's identification number; although the site will allow them to register
public must go to www.corrlinks.com to read or send all future emails.
the public receives an invitation and has problems registering, they should submit the issue via the Customer Support link at www.corrlinks.com.
attached a document you may wish to consider posting to remind inmates of the upcoming change.
Teenage inmates allegedly stab and handcuff officers in escape attempt
Vernon, Indiana, Oct 6 - (WHAS11) - Corrections officers in southern Indiana had some terrifying
moments Tuesday when they were overpowered in an escape attempt and held hostage. Two of them were stabbed at the JenningsCounty jail by young inmates who'd learned to improvise.
Police say 3 teenage inmates
took clothes hangers and sharpened the points.
They then stabbed a guard
several times, overpowering and handcuffing him.
Two other guards rushed
to help and the teens stabbed one of them and used pepper spray
they'd gotten from a storage cabinet.
They handcuffed the officers,
State police and sheriff's deputies rushed to the scene.
With the guards held hostage,
police shot the teens with stun guns ending their escape
One inmate, 17-year-old
Ryan Renfroe, was in the jail on murder charges suspected of killing Greg and Maugerite Gough, a couple in their 60’s,
in Jennings County then stealing and crashing their 1987 Camaro. Police say after he was caught, he claimed voices told
him to kill the couple.
Another inmate, 17-year-old
James Smith had a bandage
on his head as police moved him Tuesday. They say he tried to kill at least one of the guards and will be charged with attempted murder.
The others, Renfro and 19-year-old Roger Bushhorn will face kidnapping and assault charges.
They have now been sent
to 3 separate jails.
The most seriously injured
corrections officer was Walter Peace. He was flown to an
Indianapolis hospital and at last report, he was in serious condition with a stab wound to his head.
The other officers, Shawn
McDaniel and Vickie Day were treated and released from a local hospital.
AFGE Applauds Decision of Defense Authorization Conferees
to Repeal NSPS
(WASHINGTON) – Today, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE),
AFL-CIO, lauded the decision of the 2010 Defense authorization conferees to repeal NSPS. John Gage, AFGE national president,
said, "This day has been a long time coming. We greatly appreciate Chairman Skelton, Chairman Levin, and the ranking
members, Representative McKeon and Senator McCain, for their courageous decision to repeal the fatally-flawed NSPS pay system.
After numerous Congressional hearings as well as analysis by the Department's own Defense Business Board task group,
the evidence was all on the side of repeal. The Congress had generously given the Department six years to develop a
fair pay system, ample opportunity to correct its mistakes, and finally determined that the system could not be – and
should not be -- saved."
NSPS was created in a poisonous atmosphere by ideologues seeking to destroy collective
bargaining, federal unions and employee rights and protections. Through various defense authorization bills, some of
those rights – collective bargaining and employee appeal rights – were restored. But the NSPS pay system
is costly, unwieldy, discriminatory, complicated, opaque, and mistrusted by DoD civilian employees at all levels.
AFGE looks forward to working with the Department to improve the performance management
and hiring systems so that the needs of the taxpayers, war fighters, and employees can all be addressed.
The defense authorization conference report also includes language from the House
version which will credit FERS employees with their unused sick leave when they retire. This is a critical issue of
equity with employees covered by the Civil Service Retirement System. The report also provides for the conversion of
non-foreign COLA to locality pay for employees in Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands. In addition,
it corrects a longstanding retirement equity problem for employees in the District of Columbia Court Services and Offender
Supervision Agency (CSOSA) that has required some CSOSA employees to work 10 additional years to meet required credits for
federal retirement eligibility.
The Obama administration on Thursday issued an executive order banning federal employees from text messaging
while driving on government business.
"This order sends a very clear signal to the American public that distracted driving
is dangerous and unacceptable," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in a statement. "It shows that the federal
government is leading by example."
Released at the end of a two-day distracted driving summit in Washington, the order
applies to federal employees operating government-owned vehicles or driving privately owned vehicles on government business.
It also bans the use of government-supplied electronic equipment while driving. Federal contractors are encouraged to implement
Agencies will be required to outline specific steps to implement the ban, including
disciplinary actions for employees caught texting while driving. The order
directs agencies to evaluate existing driving safety education and awareness programs and consider expanding these efforts
in coordination with a stricter texting policy.
The General Services Administration and the Office of Personnel Management will assist the
Transportation Department in guiding the order's implementation and enforcement in agencies.
Texting while driving is illegal
in 18 states and the District of Columbia.
UNION FOR FEDERAL PRISON OFFICERS ALARMED BY RECENT VIOLENCE AT FCI - MCKEAN
In Wake of Increased Violence, Council of Prison Locals Calls for Full Staffing
and Funding, Continuation of Federal Prison Industries Program throughout Bureau of Prisons
WASHINGTON—A recent outbreak of violence at the Federal Correctional Institution – McKean in western Pennsylvania
has reignited efforts to secure full funding and staffing throughout the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). According to union
officials at the facility, a fight between two rival gangs quickly turned into a full-scale riot involving more than 250 inmates.
At least six inmates were taken to area hospitals with significant injuries.
“This type of violence, while alarming,
happens in every federal prison facility across the country,” said Bryan Lowry, president of the American Federation
of Government Employees’ (AFGE) Council of Prison Locals (CPL), which represents federal correctional officers at the
BOP. “Management continues to turn a blind eye toward dangerous situations that put correctional officers, inmates,
and the surrounding communities at risk.”
In recent months, the Council of Prison Locals has testified on Capitol
Hill regarding the dangers of working in understaffed and underfunded federal prisons. The union has repeatedly asked for
additional staff and the proper use of appropriated funds to ensure the safety and security of the nation’s federal
Specifically, CPL wants Congress to:
• Fully staff and fund the BOP – Right now
the inmate-to-staff ratio can be as high as 150:1 and correctional officers are unarmed inside the facility.
Issue stab-resistant vests to correctional officers – Assaults on officers with homemade weapons have spiked in recent
• Continue the Federal Prison Industries (FPI) program – FPI announced it would eliminate factories
at 14 facilities and downsize operations at four additional locations throughout the country – a move that union officials
say could lead to potential violence at facilities with hundreds of idle inmates.
The FPI prison inmate work program
is an important management tool that federal correctional officers and staff use to deal with the huge increase in the BOP
prison inmate population. It helps keep 21,836 prison inmates – or about 17% of the eligible inmate population –
productively occupied in labor-intensive activities, thereby reducing inmate idleness and the violence associated with that
idleness. It also provides strong incentives to encourage good inmate behavior, as those who want to work in FPI factories
must maintain a record of good behavior and must have completed high school or be making steady progress toward a General
Education Degree (GED).
CPL also has asked for a meeting with Attorney General Eric Holder to address the issues at
the BOP, including a request to replace Director Harley Lappin.
“The days of ‘doing more with less’
must end,” added Lowry. “It’s time to fix the BOP once and for all.”
Sentence handed down in officer stabing
Victory in Southern district of New Yourk court. JudgeThrows book at inmate Raham Daivs for the stabing
of officer Alex Matthers. While the jury in this caes failed to fine inmate Daivs guilty of attempted murder
some months ago. The Hon. Judge Batts handed down a 15 years sentence on Monday Sep 14, 2009 for possession of a weapon
and assault of a federal law enforcement officer. While we feel the jury let us down the judge
in the case made it clear,you can not stab/assault a staff member without facing alot on time.
Prisons get the flu, too.
A sentencing hearing scheduled this week for a Tipton
County man convicted of murder-for-hire in the death of his mother is being reset because of a swine-flu outbreak at the federal
prison in Memphis.
Federal prosecutors have filed a motion to postpone
sentencing for Billy Johnson, which was set for Thursday.
"The United States has been
advised that FCI Memphis, the facility where the defendant has been incarcerated, has been placed under quarantine because
of an outbreak of the H1N1 virus," federal prosecutor Steve Parker said in court papers. "Because of the quarantine, no prisoners
are being allowed to leave the facility for court proceedings. The U.S. Marshal's Service has advised that the facility will
reassess the situation on Sept. 21."
A spokesman for the Federal Correctional Institution
in Memphis could not be reached for details about the outbreak, but a telephone recording at the prison says inmate visitation
has been canceled until further notice.
FCI Memphis is at Sycamore View near Interstate
40. It is a medium-security facility that houses 1,382 male prisoners and another 289 minimum-security prisoners
at a satellite camp in Millington.
Parker asked for a 30-day continuance.
Johnson, 50, was convicted in April
of conspiracy to commit murder-by-hire in the 1999 death of his mother, Martha Johnson, a businesswoman and landowner who
lived near Covington. He also was convicted of perjury.
Johnson faces life in prison when he is sentenced by U.S. Dist.
Judge S. Thomas Anderson.
Another defendant, Danny Winberry, 43, testified for the prosecution that Johnson promised
to pay him $50,000 to kill his 62-year-old mother and that the son gave him a key to her house.
Winberry, who killed
Martha Johnson in her home with an antique iron, was sentenced to 30 years
in prison in June.
Union leaders make NSPS repeal, personnel reform major priorities
By Alyssa Rosenberg
September 4, 2009
After wrapping up their national conventions in August, leaders
of some of the largest federal employee unions prepared to aggressively pursue a broad set of legislative priorities when
Congress returns on Tuesday. They also said their members are looking for clarity about what kind of reforms to the pay and
personnel systems the Obama administration might pursue.
One of the first issues on the horizon is the fate of the Defense Department's
National Security Personnel
System. A panel appointed by the administration to examine the alternative pay system recommended in late August that NSPS be substantially reformed. But the House and Senate versions of the 2010 Defense authorization bill contain
slightly different provisions that would repeal NSPS within a year unless the Defense secretary makes a case to retain the
Matt Biggs, legislative director for the International Federation
of Professional and Technical Engineers, said his members felt that repealing NSPS was a necessary first step if the
administration wants to pursue broader personnel reform.
"Our delegates at the convention, even the ones who are not
federal employees, [believe] the whole intention of NSPS was to bust unions and dismantle the federal
civil service," he said. "They gave us our marching orders.... Anything they want to do, if it's any way related to
NSPS, it's going to be toxic, it's not going to have employee buy-in."
Beth Moten, legislative director for the American Federation
of Government Employees, said the union's members would be contacting legislators to let them know the NSPS repeal
was a priority for them. That provision is only one of a number of issues that lawmakers will have to resolve when they meet
in a conference committee to produce a final version of the bill.
But Moten described AFGE members' objections to NSPS as a stand-alone issue,
rather as a gateway issue to clear the way for broader pay and personnel reform.
"Generally speaking, they're very supportive of the General
Schedule," she said. "They would like to see more funding for the GS, including funding for bonuses for people who
are superstars. They are eager to see the GS used the way it was designed."
According to National Treasury
Employees Union President Colleen Kelley, her members have been receptive to calls for reform on a number of fronts,
including the hiring process, and they reacted positively to Office of Personnel Management Director
John Berry's remarks at NTEU's convention.
"Everyone's feeling very positive about the opportunities we have before
us," she said. "Our focus, and our request of [Berry], has been to look at what can and should be done to make the federal
workplace what he says he wants it to be. I think that starts with involving employees."
Like Moten, Kelley said her union's convention focused not on new grass-roots
campaigns, but on reinvigorating members who had been working hard on the union's legislative program. Those issues include
winning paid parental leave for federal employees, shoring up rights for whistleblowers, and giving Transportation Security Administration
employees the right to bargain collectively, she said. The NTEU
conference also focused on preparing members for the 2010 midterm elections.
Similarly, Biggs said IFPTE's convention was dedicated mostly to issues
that were already on the union's agenda, including reforms to the pension system for administrative
law judges and moving federal employees covered by nonforeign area cost-of-living
adjustments into the locality pay system. Navy employees also raised concerns about not being paid overtime on overseas
assignments, something Biggs said the union was looking into.
Biggs, Moten and Kelley all agreed their members were impatient to see change,
both from Congress and the administration.
"There were many who believed and hoped on Jan. 21 it would be like flipping
a light switch," Kelley said. "Well, that's not the way it works."
Moten said the slow appointments process meant that for many federal employees,
their working conditions and the policies that set the direction for their work had changed little since the beginning of
the Obama administration.
And Biggs noted that IFPTE members were trying to be patient even as the
administration made decisions that upset them, like the choice to pursue a 2 percent civilian pay hike rather than pushing
for parity between military and civilian raises.
"We view [Obama] as a friend, but we want to make sure that we represent
our members' interest," Biggs said.
Federal Workers Compensation Program “broken,”
DOL UNION TACKLES “BROKEN” FED COMP PROGRAM: Calling the Federal
Workers Compensation Program “broken,” AFGE Local 12 plans to work to fix the program through expanded bargaining
rights granted under the Federal Labor Management Relations Statute. “This program is simply broken due to understaffing,
poor working conditions, and terrible mismanagement,” Local 12 President
Alex Bastani told Union City. Local 12 represents federal employees who work at the Department of Labor.
The Federal Office of Workers Compensation Program (OWCP), an agency within the Department of Labor (DOL),
serves federal employees who are injured at the workplace. These federal employees include correctional officers
with the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and officers with the Border
Patrol. “BOP correctional officers have been violently attacked at the workplace by dangerous felons and Border Patrol officers, who secure our nation’s borders, face violence from those who threaten our
national security,” Bastani added. “Furthermore, there are Department of Defense workers being
underserved who protect our nation just as much as the soldiers they support. These heroic workers are being ignored by OWCP.”
In 2006, Local 12 filed an institutional grievance over poor working conditions in the Washington D.C. District Office of
the Office of Workers Compensation Programs. “The OWCP has stonewalled the processing of
this grievance and has failed to address any of the issues that the union raised,” Bastani said. “In fact, when
Local 12 raised these concerns again in May of this year during a meeting about a reorganization in OWCP, the Department was
so opposed to change that it simply canceled the reorganization rather than deal with problems in the workers compensation
program.” Bastani says Local 12 will be negotiating over technology and means and methods of work at OWCP. This negotiation
is taking place because the Department is abolishing the Employment Standards Administration
(ESA) so that the four distinct programs within this agency report directly to the Secretary of Labor. “The Union looks forward to assisting
the Secretary of Labor in reforming these programs,” Bastani said, adding “If the Secretary of Labor does not
believe that there is enough money to fix the federal Worker’s Compensation Program so that claims do not languish for
mon ths, I encourage her to visit the correctional officers in BOP, the Border Patrol officers, and the Defense workers who
maintain our planes, tanks and artillery, and tell them so.”
Schumer: FCI Ray Brook overcrowded, understaffed
By KIM SMITH DEDAM August 28, 2009
RAY BROOK - The 214 prison workers
at the Federal Correctional Institute in Ray Brook experience strained and difficult conditions
on the job every day, Sen. Charles E. Schumer says.
Standing in front of the facility
after a tour Thursday morning, the state's senior senator called for a permanent and substantial increase in the Bureau of
He wants that money to hire more officers and expand prisons.
"There are 1,227 inmates on average
at Ray Brook every day," Schumer said, a number "way over" the facility's rated capacity of 747 inmates.
a risk to the public, to the prisoners and especially to the hard-working people" who staff the prison.
have to be an expert in criminal justice to know there is a problem here."
VIOLENCE Fifteen people
were injured at the medium-security facility in inmate-on-staff attacks last year, Schumer said.
There were 21 incidents
of inmate-on-inmate violence in the same time frame, about twice per month, he said.
"This is because there are too
many prisoners and not enough staff."
The senator said he viewed the living space inside Ray Brook.
sort of feel the tension when you walk in there. It is much more crowded than before."
Standing beside Schumer was
Michael Durant of Fort Covington, spokesman for the American Federation of Government Employees
Local 3882, representing all Ray Brook prison employees.
Schumer spoke, Durant described some of the makeshift living quarters devised to fit more prisoners into the facility.
some dorms, television rooms have been converted into 12-person cells.
"The rooms weren't designed to house people,"
Durant said, adding they are not ventilated properly for sleeping quarters.
Two two-man rooms built side by side have
been retrofitted, the wall between them torn down, and three bunk beds lined
up to accommodate six men.
Morale among corrections officers and prison
workers is challenged by the lack of adequate staffing.
"The staff-inmate ratio is way out of balance," Durant said.
prison warden, Dr. Deborah Schult, was on the tour with Schumer but did not attend the news conference and had no comment
for the Press-Republican on what the senator and Durant said.
9-11 HIT Prison funding
levels have not recovered since Sept. 11, 2001, when the federal government focused on anti-terrorist activity.
put a punch on all of the prison budgets," Durant said, "a lot of it (the money) went into Homeland
Congress approved $545 million in the 2009 prison spending plan, allowing for the hire of 9,000 more
correction officers, Durant said.
"But the administration of the prison
system decided it wasn't going to be used for officers this year."
And, while numbers of prisoners in New York state facilities are going down, the number of inmates in federal prisons is expected to rise from 204,000 to 215,000
next year, Durant said.
Schumer said the next step is to put needed funding into the federal corrections system.
money is not to be drawn from stimulus funds and would represent a permanent increase, he said.
CAMP GABRIELS When asked if
the federal government has looked at the vacant, minimum-security state prison
camp at Gabriels, which closed July 1, Schumer said he had no knowledge of any plan to use that site to alleviate or
mitigate overcrowding in the federal prison system.
"As long as the
Bureau of Prisons is underfunded, we won't be able to do it," Schumer said,
adding his staff will look further into the possibility of federal use at the former Camp Gabriels.
facility has no razor wire or fencing to separate inmates from public lands around it.
York Department of Correctional Services has until Oct. 1 to come up with a reuse plan for Camp Gabriels.
said all four federal prisons in New York are in dire straits.
in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Otisville are all more than 40-percent overcrowded and also severely understaffed. "
beyond the state are, on average, 37-percent overcrowded, Schumer said.
However, numbers of prison assault in New York were down in 2007 from previous years.
INVASIVE SPECIES Schumer continued a visit to the North
Country Thursday with a stop at the Wild Center in Tupper Lake to
discuss funding for invasive species.
He outlined a four-point plan to fight invasive species that threaten the Adirondack and North Country
ecosystem, particularly didymo (also called rock snot), emerald ash borer
and Asian long-horned beetle.
He is asking Congress to fully fund
the U.S. Department of Agriculture' s efforts to provide suppression and technical assistance to New York in combating the
pests before they spread to the North Country.
The monies would allocate $35 million to control the Asian beetle from
spreading to the Adirondacks from an infestation around New York City and $39.7 million to combat ash borer.
In addition, Schumer urged the Forest
Service to release $3.1 million to provide the State Department of Environmental
Conservation to expand crews to fight the ash borer.
The third point in Schumer's plan would provide $2.5 million
to hire 74 public-information specialists in state camps and parks to help educate the public about invasive beetles. New
York has a ban on transporting firewood more than 50 miles from its source, which is sometimes misunderstood by the traveling
And finally, Schumer is looking to boost funding for the Aquatic
Nuisance Species Task Force, a division of the Fish and Wildlife Service, to put "boots on the ground" to stop the
spread of Eurasian milfoil, quagga, zebra mussels, Japanese shore crab and
By Tammy Flanagan
According to Stever Robbins, president of a Massachusetts business coaching service, there are
seven mistakes managers make when communicating. These mistakes apply to the communications between federal employees and
agency retirement specialists as well. Out of frustration, many employees blame their benefits coordinators for failing to
provide accurate or important information needed to plan for retirement. In some cases, I've intervened on behalf of employees,
only to discover that the primary reason for such misunderstandings is the employee and/or retirement specialist were not
communicating properly. Here are the mistakes, according to Robbins, along with my suggestions for avoiding them in the federal employee retirement planning process:
1. Making controversial announcements without doing groundwork first
Any controversial decision can engender rumors, anxiety and resistance. So, rather
than announcing a controversial decision to an entire group, prep people one-on-one. Learn who will object, and why.
Over the years there have been proposals, discussion and threats to change the computation of
federal retirement benefits, the eligibility requirements and even the amount of required retirement contributions. I've even
heard that Congress was scheming to get rid of the remaining federal employees who are covered under the Civil Service Retirement System. These are
all rumors with little or no truth. But when word gets passed from employee to employee, it starts to sound like a done deal.
Retirement specialists can help by assuring employees that these changes are only rumors and unless they are signed into law,
they will have no effect on employee retirement benefits. When teaching a retirement seminar, I probably gain the most credibility
by squelching the rumors and stating the facts for my audience.
Some lies or partial truths are well-intentioned. Certain topics must remain confidential
while they're under discussion. But be careful how you keep secrets. If people know you've lied, you will lose their trust
I have never seen a retirement specialist intentionally lie. But sometimes in an effort to appear
competent, a benefits coordinator will answer an employee's question before doing the proper research. Most of us know it's
OK to say, "I don't know, but I'll find out for you." If you feel your question has been answered without proper research
or accuracy, feel free to ask for a resource so you can read up on the topic and determine whether your interpretation matches
the answer you were given. Don't be afraid to ask follow-up questions or for an example of how a rule will affect your situation.
For instance, when an employee once told me his annual leave check was based on the incorrect
salary rate, I provided documentation to help him explain to his payroll office the correct computation and why he felt there
was an error. When it was determined the payment was improperly computed, the office corrected it for the employee. But the
problem affected everyone who had recently retired. The payroll specialist told the employee the problem would be fixed for
those who asked for the correction. Employees who did not find out about the mistake would not receive the proper payment.
The agency will remain nameless and the problem eventually was corrected for all the affected employees.
Here's another example of this communication issue: Kristin asks her retirement specialist about
getting credit for federal service while in college and she worked during the summers as a seasonal employee for the National
Park Service. She wants to know whether the service counts and whether she has to make a service credit payment for this period
of time. The correct answer will depend on the following issues:
Which retirement system is Kristin covered under?
When was the service?
Has the service been properly documented?
After gathering all the facts, the retirement specialist will be able to tell Kristin whether
the service counts, what she needs to do to fully credit the service, whether she owes a service credit deposit and how much
interest is due. It is very easy to make a mistake communicating this information if the retirement specialist doesn't fully
understand the importance of the three questions above. The wrong answer could lead the employee to a decision that could
cost her credit for the service or additional interest that could have been avoided. If nothing else, the retirement specialist
would lose credibility for making an error.
3. Ignoring the realities of power
Surprised that you never hear bad news until it's too late? Don't be. The more power you
have, the less you'll hear about problems.
Over the years, I've had the opportunity to meet federal employees at all levels. Those who
seem most appreciative of my presentations are often at the highest levels. They seem to be the least informed about their
benefits. Maybe it is assumed that since they are in such high positions they already know the benefit information or they
don't have time to listen to what is being circulated among the rank and file. This couldn't be further from the truth.
4. Underestimating your audience's intelligence
It's tempting to gloss over issues because "people won't understand."
There are many complicated and technical issues related to the federal retirement process. These
can be related to crediting various types of service, computing retirement benefits, and calculating interest and payments
due to properly credit a period of service. If the information is presented by someone who fully understands the technical
details, it can and should be explained to employees so they have the big picture and can make the decision that is best for
them. It is important not to use acronyms and personnel-ese when speaking to employees who do not work in the benefits arena,
and to use examples and illustrations when explaining a complicated concept.
In addition, listening to an employee's entire question is not only polite, but also critical.
Sometimes it is the last word of the question that changes the meaning. I have a tendency to assume that I know what's coming
when someone begins asking a question. It has taken discipline over the years to have the patience to listen for the rest.
5. Confusing process with outcome
Your hard work was process, and you promised them an outcome. You want them to appreciate
how hard you tried, but they wanted a specific result.
Picture this: The retirement specialist has promised Craig that he will receive his first retirement
check within one month of his retirement date. Then there is a hang-up in payroll that causes the retirement application to
be sent to the Office of Personnel Management a week later than expected.
When it arrives at OPM there is a question about some of the employee's service, causing further delay. Realizing these problems,
the retirement specialist intervenes and provides additional information, avoiding further delay. But the hard work of trying
to help move the along case faster goes unappreciated, because the real problem is the first check was promised in one month
and it didn't arrive until later.
6. Using inappropriate forms of communication
E-mail is great for conveying information, but don't use it for emotional issues. E-mail
messages are too easy to misconstrue. At the same time, phone calls and face-to-face meetings are inefficient ways to disseminate
information, but great for discussing nuanced issues. Furthermore, some people are listeners, while others are readers. Don't
be afraid to ask people how they prefer to receive information.
All employees need information to help them plan for their future, and it is best if it's provided
in a way that is appropriate for each employee. There should be a variety of options available for employees to receive retirement
information. They include:
Books, pamphlets, memos
Newsletters that provide updates on any changes
Brown-bag seminars for issues that apply to smaller groups of employees
Web sites, webinars and videoconferencing -- make use of technology
Individual retirement benefit estimates
7. Ignoring acts of omission
What you don't say could be sending as loud a message as what you do say. By their very nature,
mistakes of omission are hard to uncover.
This is a common problem in communicating retirement information. In an effort to provide a
quick response to a complicated question, important details that could help the employee understand the issue more clearly
are left out. Here's a classic example:
Debbie calls her retirement specialist and asks when she can use her sick leave to become eligible to retire.
Debbie is covered under CSRS and has 29 years of service and a year's worth of sick leave. The answer given by the retirement
specialist is no, she can't use her sick leave to become eligible to retire. If she needs 30 years of service to retire, she
must work 30 years and then the sick leave will count in the computation of the retirement benefit. All this is correct, no
mistake has been made. Debbie goes back to work, resigned to the fact that she will have to work another year to become eligible
Here's the omission: The retirement specialist didn't check to see that Debbie will celebrate
her 60th birthday next month. At age 60, the service requirement is only 20 years. Debbie will become eligible to retire next
month, and with her sick leave, her retirement would be computed on 30 years of service.
Tammy Flanagan is the senior benefits director for the National Institute of Transition Planning Inc., which conducts federal retirement planning workshops and seminars.
She has spent 25 years helping federal employees take charge of their retirement by understanding their benefits.
For more retirement planning help, tune in to "For Your Benefit," presented by the National
Institute of Transition Planning Inc. live on Monday mornings at 10 a.m. ET on federalnewsradio.com or on WFED AM 1500 in the Washington metro area.
Inmate at federal prison killed in fight
VICTORVILLE • A federal prison inmate was killed as a result of a fight
between the victim and another prisoner, officials confirmed on Wednesday.
The victim, whose name has not been released, was involved
in a fight on Sunday night with one other inmate, said Chuck Ringwood, spokesman for the Federal Correctional Institution
in Victorville. The man died early Monday morning at a local hospital.
The manner of his death was not divulged, and the federal
prison has been on lockdown since the fight.
“We believe this was an isolated incident,” Ringwood
said. “We are gathering intelligence to try to figure out what led to the fight.”
Officials do not attribute this killing to anything that occurred
at the California Institution for Men in Chino.
The FBI is currently investigating the incident.
Guard assaulted at federal prison
Pekin Daily Times Wed Aug 12, 2009
PEKIN, Ill. - An investigation continues into the assault of a guard in the men*smedium-security facility at the FederalmCorrectional
Institution-Pekin on Friday. FCI-Pekin Public Information Officer Jay Henderson said a corrections officer was attacked by an inmate at the prison. The inmates were locked down in their
housing units immediately following the assault. Henderson declined to comment further on the attack, saying the matter is
still under investigation. He said the guard is recovering from minor wounds. The prison lockdown concluded Monday morning.
FCI-Pekin houses 1,250 male inmates in the medium security section of the prison. There are 320 women housed in the minimum security section of the prison.
By Randy James
Using shards of shattered glass and metal scraps as weapons, inmates at an
overcrowded California prison went on an 11-hour rampage on Aug. 8, leaving some 250 people injured and a prison dormitory
burned to the ground. Officials believe the riot at the California Institution for Men — the state's worst since 2006
— was fueled by racial tensions between black and Hispanic inmates. The violence came as California's prison system
is adapting to a 2005 Supreme Court ruling making it more difficult for facilities to automatically segregate new prisoners
by race, as the state had done for more than 25 years to defuse potential violence. A spokesman for the prison system said
integrated prison blocks may have contributed to inflamed racial tensions prior to the riot.
Prisons are violent
places by nature; America's first recorded prison riot took place even before the Declaration of Independence, in Connecticut'
s Newgate prison in 1774, and uprisings continue to this day. One report estimates American correctional institutions saw
more than 1,300 riots in the 20th century. Prison insurgencies can be tied to a wide range of causes, including racial tension,
gang rivalries, individual feuds and general grievances against guards and prison administrators.
The nation's deadliest
uprising took place over four days at upstate New York's Attica Correctional Facility in 1971. More than 1,000 prisoners rebelled,
holding dozens of guards hostage and issuing a series of demands to improve living conditions (prisoners were reportedly allowed
only one shower per week and one toilet-paper roll per month). After negotiations broke down, authorities forcibly retook
the facility, using tear gas and live ammunition. The violence killed 32 inmates and 11 guards. (Decades later, New York state
awarded millions in damages to surviving inmates who said they were mistreated following the insurrection as well as to the
families of slain employees.) Other infamous prison disturbances include a particularly gruesome 1980 uprising in New Mexico
that claimed 33 inmate lives (some of the prisoners were mutilated with blowtorches) and an 11-day siege in 1993 at a maximum-security
prison in Lucasville, Ohio, in which a guard was killed.
As bloody as prison uprisings have been in the U.S., they
are often far more violent abroad. Indeed, the full worldwide toll of prison violence is likely unknowable, considering the
restrictions on press freedom under many of the world's more repressive regimes. One of the deadliest incidents in recent decades
took place in 1992 in São Paulo, Brazil, where 111 prisoners were killed as authorities sought to put down an uprising. Human-rights
groups accuse corrections officers of shooting inmates indiscriminately, even those who had surrendered. A Brazilian police
colonel was sentenced to 600 years in jail for using excessive force in retaking the prison; the conviction was later overturned.
São Paulo uprising took place in a notoriously violent prison, which housed more than twice as many inmates as it was intended
for. Many observers warn that increasing overcrowding is a serious threat in American prisons as well: reform advocates welcomed
a judicial ruling earlier this month requiring California to reduce its prison population by more than 25% over the next two
years. A three-judge panel ordered the state to trim more than 40,000 inmates from its rolls due to inadequate medical care
available to them, but the order also warned of concerns over public safety. "In these overcrowded conditions," the judges
wrote, "inmate-on-inmate violence is almost impossible to prevent." Just last month, Federal Bureau of Prisons head Harry
Lappin warned Congress that "crowded prisons result in greater tension, frustration, and anger among the inmate population,
which leads to conflicts and violence."
The corrections- technology industry — focusing on preventing and squashing
unrest — has grown in recent years, offering such products as cell doors that swing in both directions to prevent barricades
as well as stab- and slash-resistant body armor for corrections officers. Many of these products will be showcased at the
annual Mock Prison Riot trade show to be held next spring in West Virginia. Its slogan: "Where technology meets mayhem."
Obama's merit board nominees have deep background in union law
By Alyssa Rosenberg
August 4, 2009
The lawyers President Obama nominated to head the Merit Systems Protection
Board have played significant roles in some of the major campaigns that federal employee unions have waged in recent
years. But labor leaders also said Susan Grundmann, tapped to lead the board, and Anne Wagner, nominated to be Grundmann's
deputy, would not automatically rule against management and likely would work within the parameters of legal
Grundmann, who graduated from American University and earned a law
degree at Georgetown University, has been general counsel for the National Federation of Federal
Employees since 2002. NFFE declined to comment on her nomination, citing the pending confirmation process. But Mark
Roth, general counsel for the American
Federation of Government Employees, said Grundmann shouldered a significant load at the union because she did not have
sufficient support staff.
She took on major responsibilities outside NFFE as well. According to Matt Biggs, legislative director of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, Grundmann was chosen unanimously
by the 36 unions that are part of the United Department of Defense Workers
Coalition to head the organization's legal committee, and she handled some of the arguments for the group's lawsuit against
the Pentagon's National Security Personnel System. She also was part of the negotiating team
that met with the Homeland Security Department and the Office of Personnel Management during DHS' efforts to establish an alternative personnel system.
Biggs said Grundmann is "one of the foremost authorities in the labor community when it comes to federal labor law." He also emphasized her role as an effective advocate for federal workers and
said she had earned the respect of the management teams with which she worked.
Wagner, a graduate of Notre Dame University and The George Washington University Law School, worked
on a range of employee issues as an assistant general counsel at the American Federation of Government Employees, and as a
member and former general counsel of the Government Accountability Office's
Personnel Appeals Board. That organization is similar to the Merit Systems Protection Board and makes judgments on adverse
actions and discrimination complaints, and in cases of prohibited personnel practices that occur within GAO. The general counsel
investigates allegations filed by GAO employees and can represent them before the board if there is sufficient evidence that
a violation occurred.
As general counsel to the Personnel Appeals Board, Wagner helped determine the ground rules for an election that led
to the creation of GAO's first union, a local of the International Federation of Technical and Professional
Engineers. She also led an investigation into the agency's decision to deny annual pay adjustments to analysts who
received satisfactory ratings in 2006 and 2007 under a new pay system. That new personnel system was influential in the effort
to form a union at GAO.
At AFGE, Wagner helped challenge a law forbidding federal employees
from accepting fees for making speeches or writing articles on subjects unrelated to their government jobs. As a counsel on the case, Wagner argued that
the rule was not tailored carefully enough to be a legitimate exception to the First Amendment, and the law eventually was overturned. She
also argued that the Food Safety Inspection Service and the Agriculture
Department needed to preserve an active role for food inspectors, and worked on one of the earliest cases challenging bidding
preferences for Native American corporations, an issue that has resurfaced
in recent debates over contracting reform.
AFGE's Roth said Wagner's experience would serve her well on the Merit Systems Protection Board. "I don't think I've
ever used the term 'the perfect choice' before," he said. "But she has been groomed for this position, she has been trained
for this position."
But Roth was quick to emphasize that despite the 20 years Wagner spent at AFGE, the union would not receive preferential
treatment from her. And Roth said both nominees would have to navigate through a sea of precedents created by the federal circuit courts, to which the Merit Systems Protection Board must adhere. But members' decisions
ultimately could become part of that precedent if they are upheld in court, he added.
"The fact that you have two folks who are brilliant legally, excellent writers and have their hearts in the right place
can ultimately move that agency," Roth said. "I don't think anyone can expect a 180-degree change in direction, but there's
a lot of room for more coherent decisions and different results where appropriate."
U.S. to Reform Policy on Detention for
The Obama administration intends to announce an ambitious plan on Thursday to overhaul
the much-criticized way the nation detains immigration violators, trying
to transform it from a patchwork of jail and prison cells to what its new chief called a “truly civil detention system.”
Details are sketchy, and even the first steps will take months or years to complete. They include reviewing the federal
government’s contracts with more than 350 local jails and private prisons,
with an eye toward consolidating many detainees in places more suitable for noncriminals facing deportation — some possibly
in centers built and run by the government.
The plan aims to establish more centralized authority over the system, which holds about 400,000 immigration detainees
over the course of a year, and more direct oversight of detention centers that have come under fire for mistreatment of detainees and substandard —
sometimes fatal — medical care.
One move starts immediately: the government will stop sending families to the T. Don Hutto Residential Center, a
former state prison near Austin, Tex., that drew an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit and scathing news coverage for putting
young children behind razor wire.
“We’re trying to move away from ‘one size fits all,’ ” John Morton, who heads
the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency as assistant secretary of homeland security, said in an interview on Wednesday. Detention on a large
scale must continue, he said, “but it needs to be done thoughtfully and humanely.”
Hutto, a 512-bed center run for profit by the Corrections Corporation
of America under a $2.8 million-a-month federal contract, was presented as a centerpiece of the Bush administration’s
tough approach to immigration enforcement when it opened in 2006. The decision to stop sending families there — and
to set aside plans for three new family detention centers — is the Obama administration’s clearest departure from
its predecessor’s immigration enforcement policies.
So far, the new administration has embraced many of those policies, expanding a program to verify worker immigration
status that has been widely criticized, bolstering partnerships between federal immigration agents and local police departments,
and rejecting a petition for legally binding rules on conditions in immigration detention.
But Mr. Morton, a career prosecutor, said he was taking a new philosophical approach to detention — that the
system’s purpose was to remove immigration violators from the country, not imprison them, and that under the government’s
civil authority, detention is aimed at those who pose a serious risk of flight or danger to the community.
Janet Napolitano, the secretary of homeland security,
said last week that she expected the number of detainees to stay the same or grow slightly. But Mr. Morton added that the
immigration agency would consider alternative ways to assure that those who face deportation — and are not dangerous
— do not flee.
Reviewing and redesigning all facilities, programs and standards will be the task of a new Office of Detention Policy
and Planning, he said. Dora Schriro, special adviser to Ms. Napolitano,
will become the director, assisted by two experts on detention management and medical care. The agency will also form two
advisory boards of community groups and immigrant advocates, one focusing on detention policies and practices, the other on
detainee health care.
Mr. Morton said he would appoint 23 detention managers to work in the 23 largest detention centers, including several
run by private companies, to ensure that problems are promptly fixed. He is reorganizing the agency’s inspection unit
into three regional operations, renaming it the Office of Detention Oversight, and making its agents responsible for investigating
detainee grievances as well as conducting routine and random checks.
“A lot of this exists already,” he said. “A lot of it is making it work better” while Dr.
Schriro’s office redesigns the detention system, which he called “disjointed” and “very much dependent
on excess capacity in the criminal justice system.”
Asked if his vision could include building new civil detention centers,
he said yes. The current 32,000-bed network costs $2.4 billion a year, but the agency is not ready to calculate the cost of
a revamped system.
Vanita Gupta, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who led the lawsuit against the Hutto center, was jubilant
over the decision to stop sending families there, but cautious about the other measures.
“The ending of family detention at Hutto is welcome news and long overdue,” she said in an e-mail message.
“However, without independently enforceable standards, a reduction in beds, or basic due process before people are locked
up, it is hard to see how the government’s proposed overhaul of the immigration
detention system is anything other than a reorganization or renaming of what was in place before.”
Ms. Gupta said the changes at Hutto since 2006 illustrated the importance of enforceable rules. Before the A.C.L.U.
lawsuit was settled in 2007, some children under 10 stayed as long as a year, mainly confined to family cells with open toilets,
with only one hour of schooling a day. Children told of being threatened by guards with separation from their parents, many
of them asylum-seekers from around the world.
Only through judicial enforcement of the settlement, she said, have children been granted such liberties as wearing
pajamas at night and taking crayons into family cells. The settlement also required the agency to honor agency standards that
had been ignored, like timely reviews of the decision to detain a family at all. Some families have been deported, but others
were released or are now awaiting asylum decisions in housing run by nonprofit social
That kind of stepped-up triage could be part of the more civil detention system envisioned by Mr. Morton and Dr.
Schriro, who has been reviewing the detention system for months and is expected to report her recommendations soon.
But the Hutto case also points to the limits of their approach, advocates say. Under the settlement, parents and
children accused of immigration violations were detained when possible at the country’s only other family detention center, an 84-bed former nursing
home in Leesport , Pa. , called the Berks Family Shelter Care Facility.
The number detained at Hutto has dropped sharply, to 127 individuals from as many as 450.
Advocates noted that Berks, though eclipsed by the criticism of Hutto — the subject of protest vigils, a New
Yorker article and a documentary — also has a history of problems, like guards who disciplined children by sending them across the parking
lot to a juvenile detention
center, and families’ being held for two years.
The Hutto legal settlement expires Aug. 29. In the most recent monitoring report last month, Magistrate Judge Andrew
W. Austin wrote: “Although the use of this facility to hold families is not a violation of the settlement agreement,
it seems fundamentally wrong to house children and their noncriminal parents this way. We can do better.”
Mr. Morton, a career prosecutor, seemed to agree. Hutto will be converted into an immigration jail for women, he
said, adding: “I’m not ruling out the possibility of detaining families. But Berks is the better facility for
that. Hutto is not the long-term answer.”
Guantanamo Detainees Won't Fit at Supermax, Olympic Bomber Says
The domestic terrorist known as the Olympic Park
Bomber says the U.S. government should think twice about transferring Guantanamo Bay detainees to the federal Supermax prison
in Colorado, which holds some of America's most notorious criminals.
Eric Robert Rudolph, who is serving a life sentence for a series of bombings that killed
two people and wounded scores of others, exclusively told FOX News in a letter dated June 30 that he doubts the Guantanamo
detainees will become his fellow inmates at the Supermax prison in Florence, Colo., about 90 miles south of Denver.
"They do not want the detainees' high powered lawyers focusing their ire on Supermax,"
Rudolph wrote to FOX News. "Washington built a nice little black hole where they throw their unmentionables and they do not
want a bunch of New York lawyers shining any light in here."
Among Supermax's notorious inmates are Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui; "Unabomber"
Ted Kaczynski; Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols; 1993 World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef; and Robert Hanssen,
a former FBI agent serving life for espionage.
Rudolph, 42, says the prison is already at capacity. "So even if they decide to move the
detainees here I do not know where they would put them," Rudolph wrote. "To house that many detainees staff would have to
empty one, two, maybe three entire units."
The Supermax prison, dubbed "The Alcatraz of the Rockies," currently holds 465 inmates,
25 short of its capacity, Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman Traci Billingsley told FOXNews.com.
President Obama has called for the Guantanamo prison to be closed by January, and Dean
Boyd, a spokesman for the Department of Justice, said no decision has been made regarding where the 229 remaining detainees
will be sent once the Cuban facility is shut down.
Boyd said the detainees would "not necessarily" be sent to federal prisons, but he declined
Rudolph said that if the detainees are sent to Colorado, they will receive the same religious
privileges at the Supermax prison that they have had at Gitmo.
"The government goes out of its way to please its non-Christian inmates," Rudolph wrote
in his letter. "Muslims can buy prayer rugs and Kufi caps. Korans are given away free. A Muslim [Imam] has recently been attached
to the chaplain's office."
Detainees at Guantanamo are given 20 minutes of prayer time every day, typically at 5:30
a.m., 1 p.m., 2:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., according to Joint Task Force Guantanamo. Each detainee is also issued a
personal copy of the Koran, and meal schedules are modified to accommodate holy periods like Ramadan.
Rudolph, who was linked to the racist and anti-Semitic Christian Identity movement before
his incarceration, said Jewish and Muslim inmates at Supermax are offered many items not offered to Christian inmates, like
"real" whole wheat bread and fresh fruits and vegetables.
"Many of the less than honest inmates 'convert' to Judaism or Islam just to get the Kosher
Halal food tray," he wrote. "In contrast, the government's treatment of Christians is different. Christians cannot get the
Kosher-Halal food tray."
Billingsley said all federal prisons, including the Supermax facility, accommodate all
Rudolph was sentenced to life without parole in July 2005 for setting off a bomb and killing
an off-duty police officer and critically wounding a nurse at an abortion clinic in Alabama. He was later sentenced to two
additional life terms for the 1996 bombing at the Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta, which killed a spectator and wounded
scores of others, and for other bombings in and around Atlanta.
Rudolph, who bombed several facilities in a campaign against abortion and homosexuality,
said his time at Supermax has not changed him.
"I'm still the same person — a little older and little wiser, but still same person,
the same convictions," he wrote.
Constructed in 1994 at an estimated cost of $60 million, the Supermax prison, or Administration
Maximum (ADX), is one of four facilities located on the 640-acre Florence Federal Correctional Complex in Colorado.
The facility houses the country's most violent, disruptive and escape-prone inmates. No
escapes or serious attempts have occurred since its opening, Billingsley said.
Billingsley declined to discuss Rudolph's status at the prison. Inmates considered the
most disruptive are allowed up to seven hours of individual recreation opportunities weekly and one 15-minute phone call per
Short-Staffed Federal Prisons Endanger Communities, Guards
The union that represents correctional officers at the U.S. Bureau of Prisons says federal prisons—including the
famed Supermax facility—are not safe and major steps must be taken soon to protect prison employees and the communities
near the prisons.
Testifying before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security yesterday, Bryan Lowery and
Phil Glover told lawmakersthat budget cuts and short staffing increasingly pose a danger to officers, inmates and
the 115 communities and small towns which surround the facilities.
Lowery is president of AFGE’s Council of Prison Locals, and Glover is the council’s legislative coordinator.
Earlier this year, AFGE successfully fought for a $545 million increase in Bureau of Prisons funding. But
the agency’s top management repeatedly has refused to follow the direction of Congress and is unilaterally saying that
none of the funds provided for increased staffing will be used for that purpose.
The blatant disregard for the safety of our federal correctional officers by the Bureau of Prisons management is inexcusable.
The safety of correctional officers, inmates and our communities is at risk.
The Council of Prison Locals is circulating an online petition urging U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to order Bureau of Prisons management to use the appropriated funds to hire
more officers, fire Bush-era Bureau of Prisons Director Harley Lappin and hire 9,000 additional correctional officers.
The council also has asked for a meeting with Holder to address the issues at the Bureau of Prisons.
Click here to sign the petition and send Holder the message.
Years of underfunding has created a serious understaffing situation in which correctional officers are outnumbered
by inmates by 150-1 and correctional officers are unarmed inside the facilities. In a bureaucratic sleight of hand to cover
over the shortstaffing, the Bureau of Prisons counts secretaries and administrative unit managers, among other nonguard correctional
workers, in calculating its inmate-to-correctional staff ratio nationwide.
Some 206,000 inmates are confined in federal prisons today, up from 25,000 in 1980. By 2010, estimates project 215,000 inmates
in these institutions.
The number of officers who staff federal prisons is failing to keep pace with the tremendous growth in the inmate
population. Today, prison staffing is at an 86.6 percent level, compared with 95 percent staffing in the mid-1990s.
The additional officers requested by the union would return staffing to 1997 levels.
The seriousness of the short staffing was underscored last month on the first anniversary of the murder of correctional
officer Jose Rivera, who was stabbed to death in a federal prison in Atwater, Calif., while locking inmates
into their cells. He was working alone because, the union says, that prison is severely understaffed.
In addition to fully funding and staffing the prisons, the union is seeking stab-resistant vests for correctional officers.
Assaults on officers with homemade weapons have jumpred in recent years, said Lowery and Glover, who both are exposed to dangers
in their jobs as correctional officers in federal lockups.
Union and prisons director clash on funding
A federal employee union official and the head of the Bureau of Prisons agreed that understaffing is a problem in testimony
before House lawmakers on Tuesday, but painted conflicting portraits of how the agency is addressing it.
"Our No. 1 priority in the Bureau of Prisons is to increase our staff who supervise inmates," Director Harley Lappin told
the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security. "We have not had the available funding to fill
as many positions that we'd like to fill...Over time, with increased medical costs, with increased salary and benefit costs,
with increased costs associated with facilities cost, [other items] have absorbed our budget."
He noted the number of inmates per prison guard has climbed from 3.6 in 1997 to 4.9 in 2009. This has contributed to growth
in prison violence, Lappin said. Phil Glover, legislative coordinator for the American Federation of Government Employees'
Council of Prison Locals, cited a bureau report that found between fiscal 2005 and 2006, the number of inmate-inmate attacks
increased 15.5 percent, and inmate-staff attacks rose 6 percent.
Lappin told lawmakers the bureau is working on beefing up its staffing, and said he would provide Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif.,
a summary of ongoing efforts. He added that he hoped future budgets would allow the bureau to hire 3,000 more employees, including
But in written testimony, Glover criticized Lappin for failing to take advantage of funding already available. He said
"informed sources" told AFGE that the bureau intended to use $70.6 million set aside in President Obama's 2010 budget to hire
742 correctional officers "to help rebuild various BoP operational activities (inmate care programs and prison facility maintenance
and security functions)."
Glover also said in his written testimony that Lappin rejected a recommendation from the House Appropriations Committee
that the bureau use extra funds in the fiscal 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act to hire more corrections officers. Instead,
Glover said, Lappin planned to spend that money on the 2009 federal employee pay raise; inmate care costs that were higher
than budgeted; new education and drug treatment staff; and the National Institute of Corrections, a think tank and training
center for state and federal corrections agencies.
Traci Billingsley, chief public information officer for the Bureau of Prisons, said it was true that the pay raise had
consumed $111 million of the $257 million funding increase that the bureau received in fiscal 2009, and the bureau was coping
with rising costs in other areas, including medical care and utilities. The bureau also opened a new medium-security prison
in Louisiana in fiscal 2009, she said.
But Billingsley said the union's characterization of the bureau as spending no funds on staffing was inaccurate. The bureau
has a net increase of 405 staff so far this year, she said, and during the third and fourth quarters of 2009, the size of
the corrections departments at federal prisons and the federal Supermax facility is set to increase by 2 percent.
Cardoza says he warned Atwater warden about prison conditions
WASHINGTON -- The former warden of U.S. Penitentiary Atwater ignored congressional warnings
before the June 2008 slaying of correctional officer Jose Rivera, Rep. Dennis Cardoza told lawmakers Tuesday.
In the months preceding Rivera's murder, Cardoza said he had received multiple complaints from
Atwater guards about conditions at the maximum-security facility. But when the Merced Democrat tried alerting then-warden
Dennis Smith, he says he got the brush off.
"I wrote to him and then I called him, and he didn't respond," Cardoza told a House panel. "He
wouldn't return my phone calls."
Testifying before the House subcommittee on crime, terrorism and homeland security, Cardoza
underscored that it's rare for top federal agency employees to ignore congressional communications. Unresponsiveness wasn't
the only issue.
"There were a number of things that were a failure by the prior warden," Cardoza said, adding
that he is very satisfied with the work of the current Atwater warden, Hector Rios Jr.
An April 2009 Bureau of Prisons Board of Inquiry report into Rivera's slaying identified multiple
problems at the prison, ranging from widespread availability of "intoxicants" and homemade weapons to infrequent pat searches
and troubling gang control over cell assignments.
Smith was transferred to an Illinois prison following Rivera's killing and could not be reached
to comment Tuesday. He was named, along with other top Bureau of Prisons officials, in a federal lawsuit filed by Rivera's
family. The $100 million lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Fresno last month contended that federal prison officials
bore responsibility for the "dangerous conditions that resulted in the death" of Rivera.
Rivera's family has since withdrawn the lawsuit in order to first file a required administrative
claim. If the Bureau of Prisons rejects the claim within the next six months, an attorney working with Rivera family lawyer
Mark J. Peacock said Tuesday, the lawsuit will resume.
Two former Atwater inmates, Joseph Cabrera Sablan and James Leon Guerrero, now await trial on
murder charges. Both men were intoxicated when they attacked Rivera with an ice pick-type weapon, investigators concluded.
"Sablan admitted to the FBI he was drunk at the time of the incident and stated he did not remember
what happened," the board of inquiry report stated.
In their most recent court filings, defense attorneys last week spelled out in 23 pages all
of the potential evidence they want from prosecutors, ranging from videos and maps to Rivera's autopsy report and the arrest
records of every potential witness.
Rivera was unarmed and not wearing a stab-proof vest at the time he was attacked. His death
accelerated calls for additional staffing and better equipment, though some pleas for help had preceded his killing, as well.
In an April 2008 letter sent to Smith as well as Bureau of Prisons Director Harley Lappin, Cardoza
stated that "personnel are worried that they simply do not have the resources to cope" with overcrowded, understaffed facilities.
Currently, the Bureau of Prisons oversees more than 207,000 inmates nationwide.
In 1997, federal prisons maintained a 3.7 inmate-to-staff ratio. Currently, federal prisons
have a 4.9 inmate-to-staff ratio.
"Our number one priority is increasing staff," Lappin told the House panel Tuesday, adding that
"we have not had the available funding" to do so recently.
Lappin added that "there is a direct, statistically significant relationship" between prison
overcrowding and prison violence. An increase of one inmate in a facility's inmate-to-staff ratio is associated with an additional
4.5 serious assaults per 5,000 inmates, Bureau of Prisons research has shown.
The House and Senate are working on a fiscal 2010 Justice Department funding bill that includes
$70.5 million for additional federal prison staffing. Union representatives, who have been calling for Lappin's resignation,
say they fear the additional money will be used for purposes other than hiring more staff.
Panel: Prison Overcrowding Jeopardizes Guard and Inmate Safety
By Matthew Harwood
Overcrowding at federal prisons is seriously jeopardizing the safety and security of guards and inmates alike, witnesses
told lawmakers today.
Correctional administrators agree that crowded prisons result in greater tension, frustration, and anger among the inmate
population, which leads to conflicts and violence,"said Harry G. Lappin, director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons
(BOP), before a subcommittee of the House Committee on the Judiciary.
Since the 1980s, the prison population has exploded within federal prisons. From 1980 to 1989, the inmate population doubled
from 24,000 to 58,000, mainly due to mandatory minimum sentencing statutes. During the 1990s, the population more than doubled,
ballooning to 134,000. As of July 2, 2009, the FOB detains 170,700 prisoners, while another 36,000 prisoners are held under
contract with private prisons.
"Systemwide," noted Lappin, "the BOP was operating at 37 percent over its total rated capacity."
Despite this dramatic increase in the prisoner population, the number of guards necessary to keep these institutions safe
has not kept pace.
"The BOP system is currently staffed at an 87 percent level, as contrasted with the 95 percent staffing levels in the mid-1990s,"
testified Phil Glover, legislative coordinator for the American Federation of Government
Employees' Council on Prison Locals. "This 87 percent staffing level is below the 90 percent staffing level
that BOP believes to be the minimum staffing level for maintaining the safety and security of BOP prisons."
Currently, the inmate-to-staff ratio in BOP facilities is 4.9 inmates to 1 staff member, whereas in 1997 the ratio
was 3.7 to 1, Glover added.
Such overcrowding overwhelms prison guards and leads to increased rates of serious violence among the inmates, Lappin testified,
citing an internal BOP study from 2005.
We found that both the inmate-to-staff ratio and the rate of crowding at an institution (the number
of inmates relative to the institution’s rated capacity) are important factors that affect the rate of serious inmate
Our analysis revealed that a one percentage point increase in a facility’s inmate population
over its rated capacity corresponds with an increase in the prison’s annual serious assault rate by 4.09 per 5,000 inmates;
and an increase of one inmate in an institution’s inmate-to-custody-staff ratio increases the prison’s annual
serious assault rate by approximately 4.5 per 5,000 inmates. The results demonstrate through sound empirical research that
there is a direct, statistically significant relationship between resources (bed space and staffing) and institution safety.
The violence has also increasingly touched guards too, said Glover.
In just over the past year, one guard in California was murdered by two inmates while another guard in Indiana was "brutally
stabbed," he said. Glover also noted a 2006 report from the BOP that reported inmate-on-staff assaults increased 6 percent
over the prior fiscal year.
To increase the safety and security of federal prisons, Glover and Lappin urged Congress to direct BOP to hire more staff.
Lappin also recommended other solutions, such as expanding inmate housing at existing facilities; funneling nonviolent criminal
aliens, which make up 10 percent of the prison population, to private prisons; and reducing the prison population or the amount
of time a prisoner serves.
The likelihood that the BOP will hire more staff, however, seems remote, says Glover.
The BOP has decided that none of the money allocated in FY 2009 and that will eventually be allocated in FY 2010 will
go to hiring more correctional officers, rather it will be spent to "rebuild various BOP operational activities (inmate care
programs and prison facility maintenance and security functions) that were allowed to erode due to years of inadequate salaries
and expenses account funding," Glover told lawmakers.
The list of offenses reads like a police blotter during a full moon.
June 25, Inez, Ky.: Inmate stabs officer with shank covered with feces.
July 7, Anthony, Tex.: Prisoner places officer in headlock and beats him.
July 13, Hazelton, W.Va.: Inmate throws feces and urine on officer.
Friday, Springfield, Mo.: Inmate strikes Bureau of Prisons officer in the head after inmate was told
to pull up his pants.
The stomach-turning catalogue of violence against federal prison employees, provided by the American
Federation of Government Employees, is long, serious and apparently unending. The assaults are sometimes fatal.
In June 2008, Jose Rivera became the first Federal Bureau of Prisons officer killed in the line of
duty in 11 years when he was stabbed by inmates at a penitentiary in Atwater, Calif. Less than a year later, on April 23,
another correctional officer, whose name the bureau would not release, was stabbed in a federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind.
"BOP prisons have become increasingly dangerous places to work, primarily because of serious correctional
officer understaffing and prison inmate overcrowding problems," Phil Glover, a union official, told a congressional panel
The inmate-to-staff ratio is more than one-third greater than it was in 1997, federal figures show.
"Systemwide, the BOP was operating at 37 percent over its total rated capacity" as of July 2, the bureau's
director, Harley G. Lappin, told the House Judiciary subcommittee on crime, terrorism and homeland security. But high-security
facilities, where the most violent offenders are kept, are 50 percent over capacity.
Medium-security pens are almost as crowded. In about 20 percent of those facilities, cells are triple-bunked, "and in many
institutions, inmates are being housed in space that was not designed for inmate housing," Lappin said.
As overcrowding increases, so do assaults. Inmate-on-staff violence rose 6 percent and inmate-on-inmate violence jumped
16 percent in fiscal 2006, compared with the previous year, Glover said, citing BOP statistics. In addition to being the legislative
coordinator for the union's Council of Prison Locals, he is a correctional officer in Loretto, Pa.
Although much of the hearing dealt with issues such as inmate health care and the overblown topic of terrorists in U.S.
correctional facilities, the most gripping part of the discussion focused on the safety, or lack of it, of the 34,000 federal
correctional officers and employees who work in the prisons. Glover blamed Lappin for allowing the number of officers to fall
too low for the growing inmate population they theoretically control.
Union leaders want Lappin's head to roll.
Glover said that "BOP management is failing to take advantage of increased federal funding to hire additional correctional
officers," despite Lappin's assertion that increasing staff levels is his top priority.
Glover said that $160 million in the current budget has not been spent to hire officers and fill other needs, as Congress
intended, and that BOP has no plans to spend $70.5 million provided to increase officer staffing next year.
Not so, Lappin said. "All of the money we have for salaries is being put to use for salaries and benefits for staff," he
said after the hearing.
Glover told lawmakers that they should direct the Bureau of Prisons to take action that would enhance staff safety. The
federal employees' union says two correctional officers should be assigned to each housing unit; officers should be provided
batons, pepper spray and stun guns in potentially dangerous situations; and the use of protective vests should be subject
to "a more reasonable implementation policy."
Labor and management clearly have their differences, but they agree that prisons with too many inmates who have too little
work become breeding grounds for violence against each other and staff members.
Federal Prison Industries provides inmates with jobs and a chance to develop skills and improve their work ethic as they
produce goods for sale. "It also keeps inmates productively occupied," Lappin said. "Those who participate in FPI are substantially
less likely to engage in misconduct."
But that won't be the case for 1,700 inmates who are losing their jobs. Last week, 19 prison factories began closing or
cutting back operations. Work hours are being cut for other inmates.
The union doesn't represent those prisoners, but it argues for their jobs, for altruistic and selfish reasons.
The loss of inmate jobs, Glover said, "would seriously endanger the safety of our members -- the correctional officers
and staff who work inside BOP institutions."
The government-owned company that
employs federal prison inmates is closing some factory operations at 14 prisons and downsizing operations at four more amid
multimillion-dollar losses, according to a copy of a memo provided by a prison union official.
The government-owned company that employs federal prison inmates is closing some factory
operations at 14 prisons and downsizing operations at four more amid multimillion-dollar losses, according to a copy of a
memo provided by a prison union official.
Federal Prison Industries Inc., or UNICOR, has lost $20 million year to date and has
lost money the last seven months, according to the memo Wednesday from Paul Laird of the Bureau of Prisons.
The Associated Press received a copy of the memo from Phil Glover, national legislative
coordinator for the Council of Prison Locals, American Federation of Government Employees.
The memo didn't say how many staff jobs were affected. Bureau representatives didn't
return after-hours phone messages.
Laird wrote that the company has excess production capacity, and cost-reduction initiatives
weren't enough to bring profits.
The memo said the company started closing factories at eight prisons Tuesday in various
states and will close operations at specialized units at six more prisons. Operations at four more prisons will be downsized.
The initiatives are expected to save nearly $16 million a year in operating costs,
beginning in late 2010, Laird wrote in the memo.
"This was an extremely difficult decision because it affected a number of dedicated
FPI staff. However it is critical that FPI not incur costs that we have insufficient business to support," he wrote.
Glover said Laird told union officials early this year that the company was projecting
multimillion-dollar losses for the year.
Glover said the military hasn't been buying as much equipment from the company. At
the Loretto federal prison in Pennsylvania where he is a correctional officer, the factory was running two shifts, five days
a week, to keep up with orders for communications cable during the Iraq war, he said.
The workload is now down to four days a week, with one shift and almost 200 fewer inmates
working, Glover said.
Glover estimated 100 non-inmate jobs could be affected by the factory downsizing, although
workers could be offered other corrections jobs. The larger issue, though, is what will happen with inmates who lose jobs
- a big safety issue for corrections officers, Glover said.
"Idle inmates are always a recipe for disaster," said Mike Schnobrich, a correctional
officer and treasurer for an American Federation of Government Employees local union in Colorado. "One of the benefits of
having UNICOR is it takes up inmates' time. They're being productive, they're busy working."
The company had 21,836 inmate employees and 109 factories at 76 locations as of Sept.
30, 2008. The program is aimed at preventing recidivism and teaching inmates job skills.
Correctional officers need help to increase fed. prison staffing
To the Editor:
First, I would like to take the time to thank Mr. Nelson Trout for his public remarks in the newspaper
concerning our union's fight for a safe work place in this already dangerous and unstable environment
(The News, July 7, 'Use stimulus money for prison staffing'). This week, I sat at home and watched as most Americans did the
memorial services for Michael Jackson. During this time, the news anchor commented on the expense that
was incurred by the city of Los Angles and the state of California to
put together that remarkable event. He also commented on the strain that it placed on the city's budget
for putting on this event. Those comments then left me tothink — how we as Americans
can accept the fact that there is no money to pay for the life of many in the Federal Bureau of Prisons, but
we can pay this type of money to place one celebrity to rest. However,
a young man who served his country both in the U.S. Navy and in the Federal Bureau of Prisons was
brutally stabbed to death on the job and his burial was overlooked by
many. Did Officer
Jose Rivera get this same type of treatment as Michael Jackson? Are we still willing to place many other lives in jeopardy
behind those prison walls and fences? These are some of the questions that come to mind. This is while our correctional officers are proudly protecting
our communities and society from some of the most dangerous people in America and around the world, while
having. to work in conditions of understaffing and overcrowding in federal prisons. Just this week at FCI Fairton, we received more inmates than we
have beds available to place them in. Yes, inmates sleeping on cots. Who cares about the safety of the correctional
officers and the support stall? When are we going to hire the staff necessary
to handle this increased inmate population. What price tag does the BOP have when it comes to staffing
prisons at a safe level or purchasing the necessary safety equipment needed to protect our officers and
support staff. As Americans, what are we willing to pay and do to protect the people who still remain working in
this dangerous environment behind our prison walls. Correctional officers walk one of the most dangerous beats
in our law enforcement society. I am asking the community to call on Attorney General Eric Holder,
your congressman and senators to mandate that the BOP management increase staff in our federal prisons
at an appropriate, safe level and give staff the safety equipment needed to do our job.
DAVID F. GONZALEZ
AFGE Local 3975
TRUMKA SLATE SET TO FIGHT FOR WORKERS
Taken from UNION CITY! Metro Washington Council News,
"The party's over!" thundered Rich Trumka yesterday morning, issuing a stern
warning to America's bosses and political leaders as he officially announced his candidacy to lead the AFL-CIO. "American
workers have been beaten, cheated, lied to and stolen from," Trumka shouted, his words echoing in the University of the District
of Columbia's central plaza, "we're losing our jobs, our pensions and, quite frankly, our patience. We want a seat at the
table and we don't have a moment to waste. We will seize this moment and together, we will turn this country around!" Trumka's
stirring speech brought the crowd – which included dozens of top national labor leaders and hundreds of union staffers,
activists and rank-and-file members – to its feet, cheering and applauding. "Martin Luther King said that the time is
always right to do what's right," Trumka added. "If you stand with us, we'll stand with you. If not, you better step aside."
His speech capped the introduction of Trumka's slate, which includes Arlene Holt Baker for re-election as Executive Vice President
and Liz Shuler – currently executive assistant to IBEW President Edwin Hill - for Secretary-Treasurer. In addition to
promising a renewed focus on mobilizing and organizing, all three candidates emphasized the labor movement's need to appeal
to young workers. "How many of you have a Facebook page?" Shuler asked. "Friend me! Follow us on Twitter and watch us on YouTube."
Everyone who spoke paid tribute to outgoing President John Sweeney, including Holt Baker, who called him "a man of great humility,
who's been there for us through challenging times." Noting that "Corporate America sees no difference between us, just the
threat we pose" to their power, Trumka called for unity in the American labor movement. "We must join forces, or the opportunity
to rebuild the labor movement will slip through our fingers like sand." Metro Council President Jos Williams served
as Master of Ceremonies for the event, noting that "collaboration is underway between local labor leaders, community groups,
and faculty to establish an organizing institute here on campus." The election will take place at this year's AFL-CIO convention
in September; No other presidential candidate has announced. Gregory Junemann, president of IFPTE, also is running for secretary-treasurer.
Click here for Mike Hall's AFL-CIO Now blog report.
Inmate fight at Beaumont penitentiary causes lockdown
ByBLAIR DEDRICK ORTMANN
July 6, 2009 Posted: July 6, 2009, 1:49 PM CDT Last updated: July 6, 2009, 4:11 PM CDT
A fight Sunday evening involving a group of inmates has caused the U.S. Penitentiary - Beaumont to be put on lockdown.
Staff gained control of the incident immediately, a release from the correctional complex stated, and one inmate, who was
treated for a contusion at a local hospital, has been returned to the prison.
There were no injuries to staff members, and there was no threat to the community, the release stated.
The lockdown, a state of increased security and inmate supervision, has been put into place while the incident is investigated,
the release stated.
During lockdown, inmates are generally confined to their housing units or cells shile services such as meals, medical care
and showers are provided to all inmates within their assigned units.
Visiting has been suspended during the lockdown, but it is anticipated to be back to normal operations shortly, the release
U.S. Marshals searching for prisoner who was allowed to take himself to halfway house
ByNaples Daily News staff report
U.S. Marshals are searching for a prisoner from Fort Myers who recently walked away from an unescorted move to a halfway
house in the city.
Kent George Sawyer, 43, was serving a 92-month sentence for a 2003 drug possession conviction. Held in a low-security prison
at the federal Coleman complex in Orlando, Sawyer was granted a June 8 move to the halfway house, according to an affidavit
filed in federal court.
He was permitted to travel unescorted to the home, the Salvation Army Residential Reentry Center on Edison Avenue.
Sawyer was to take a taxi from the prison to the Orlando bus station and catch an afternoon Greyhound bus to Fort Myers,
arriving no later than 8:35 p.m. Sawyer would then take a taxi to the reentry center, arriving no later than 9:05 p.m., according
to the affidavit.
When he didn't show up, the Bureau of Prisons notified marshals that Sawyer had escaped.
The U.S. Marshals Service filed a criminal complaint against Sawyer on Wednesday. In the affidavit, Deputy U.S. Marshal
Paul Smith stated that Sawyer still hadn't been found.
The Bureau of Prisons grants furloughs to prisoners who meet "strict requirements," according to its Web site. Reasons
for the unescorted trips include family emergencies and efforts to aid the prisoner's eventual release.
Sawyer showed no disciplinary problems in prison, according to court documents.
His sentence, originally for 110 months, was reduced last year to match newly lowered federal crack cocaine sentencing
House unanimously approves
FERS sick leave bill
By ELISE CASTELLI
June 25, 2009
The House unanimously approved a bill that could increase the pensions
for hundreds of thousands of federal employees covered by the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS).
The measure credits the unused sick leave of retiring FERS employees
toward their time-in-service when calculating their pensions. There are roughly 1.4 million employees in the FERS. Employees
under the older Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) have always had this benefit.
The House approved the measure, called the Disabled Military Retiree
Relief Act of 2009, by a 404-0 vote. It now moves to the Senate, which stripped similar provisions from a bill giving the
Food and Drug Administration the authority to regulate tobacco.
The bill also allows FERS employees who leave and thenreturn
to federal service to get credit for their previous service and to redeposit their retirement annuities so they can receive
a pension for their entire federal service. CSRS employees already have this benefit.
But CSRS employees also would benefit from the bill if it gets passed.
It would let CSRS employees who choose to work part-time at the end of their careers collect their full annuities.
The bill also extends locality pay to Alaska, Hawaii and U.S. territories,
which currently only get cost of living adjustments (COLAs). The region would begin transitioning to the locality pay system
starting in January 2010, when employees would receive one-third of the locality pay percentage for the rest of the U.S. In
2011, those employees would receive two-thirds of the locality pay percentage. And in 2012, they would receive full locality
COLAs are based on higher cost of goods and services in regions while
locality pay aims to close the pay gap between public and private-sector employees. Employees who are paid COLAs get smaller
annuities when they retire because locality pay boosts base salary, which can be counted toward their annuity calculations.
Prisons dangerously understaffed
To the Editor:
I am David F. Gonzalez, the local union president of AFGE Council of Prison
Locals Local 3975, located at Federal Correctional Institution, Fairton, N.J. I would like to take a moment to educate the
local community on the hurdles that we face as federal correctional officers on a dally basis and why we need your support.
On June 20, 2009, this marked the one-year anniversary of Officer Jose Rivera's death in the federal prison in Atwater, Calif.
While locking inmates into their cells by himself in June of last year, Officer Rivera was stabbed to death by inmates. Officer
Rivera had no stab-proof vest. Officer Rivera was a veteran who served in Iraq and though he survived in Iraq, he was murdered
doing a job that most folks don't understand. A year later, correctional officer's working in the federal prisons still lack
the necessary safety equipment and are unarmed, we still have a severe staff shortage and on certain shifts one correctional
officer in the housing units. You would think after losing a young life such as Officer Rivera a
year ago, that the light would go off and someone, somewhere would say, this has to stop before someone else gets killed.
Most recently, on April 23, an officer at a federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind., was stabbed seven times by an inmate in a
murder attempt. A week later, in a federal prison in Tucson, Ariz., a correctional officer was attacked and could not radio
for help because his radio had been grabbed. Responding staff came to his aid only after being alerted by another inmate.
These are just some examples of what we as federal correctional workers have to face every single day we go behind that fence,
regardless of how we are staffed. Now, what issues do we face today, when we are using support staff such as a secretary or
a case manager or even a plumber to take the place of a correctional officer. On the evening and morning shifts, staff are
outnumbered 100 or 200 to one. This is because what is told to we
don't have the money to hire enough staff
that is needed to fulfill the agency mission on a daily basis or, most important, purchase the proper safety equipment for
staff. The dangerous federal prison conditions has the BOP staff and the union wondering why are we so short-staffed when
the agency has been given a budget by Congress that includes increases every year. As a local union president for the last
9 years, I still cannot understand this. The actions taken by the agency also puts the community at risk as well, so every
one of us has a stake in the running of these unsafe and understaffed prisons. The union is calling on Congress to provide
an increase to the agency's budget and, most important, direct the agency to use a big chunk of this increase to hire new
correctional officer's now — before we have another incident like what happened to my fallen brother on June 20, 2008.
Keeping Hope Alive
By Alex M. Parker
Last week lawmakers left employee groups disappointed when they stripped a gargantuan tobacco regulation bill
of language that would have resolved an inequity in how sick leave is treated in the two major federal retirement systems,
and made it more attractive for employees in the newer system to return to government after a stint in the private sector.
Luckily for federal employees, these provisions aren't necessarily lost for good.
There is a decent chance they could crop up later this year as amendments to other bills, supporters say.
In addition to the measure that would have allowed Federal Employees Retirement System
members to count unused sick time toward their retirement benefits, a provision could resurface that permits FERS workers
to redeposit retirement funds collected after leaving government upon returning for a second round of service. There is one
caveat: workers would have to redeposit not only the amount they took upon leaving, but also the interest the money would
have earned had they left it with the government.
One big hurdle in tacking these measures onto other bills, however, will be bringing
them in compliance with pay-go rules, which require that all new entitlement programs or tax cuts be offset by spending cuts
or revenue increases.
In the tobacco bill, the cost of implementing the provisions would have been offset
by increased revenues from a Roth 401(k) option added to the Thrift Savings Plan, at least in the short term. (In a Roth account,
workers contribute income that already has been taxed in contrast to a traditional retirement account, which is not taxed
until the money is withdrawn.) Of course, once Roth contributors retire, they would withdraw that money tax-free, counteracting
the government's earlier gains. But the Congressional Budget Office only estimates the cost of a bill for 10 years after it
If lawmakers want to attach the provisions to a different bill, they will have to
couple them with new revenue-generating or cost-cutting proposals.
But despite this challenge, it is unlikely the tobacco bill will be the last that's
heard of the provisions, supporters say.
Soldiers and other uniformed service members who receive combat pay soon might not
have to worry about whether that pay would prevent their family from collecting Supplemental Security Income.
The proposed rule change, posted
in the Federal Register on June 11, would designate that combat pay not
be factored in to the calculation of whether a service member or his or her family would qualify for SSI, which is administered
by the Social Security Administration and is available to those who are elderly, disabled or have limited income.
"These proposed rules would protect spouses and children of members of the uniformed
services from a reduction in, or loss of, benefits because their spouse or parent serves in a combat zone," the notice stated.
According to the proposed rule, most military members probably are not eligible for SSI benefits themselves, but their family
members may be. Current rules already discount "hostile fire pay," but the change would broaden that to include all types
of additional pay given for serving in a combat zone.
"We determined that it would be inequitable to deem that pay as income and reduce
family members' benefits or potentially render the family member ineligible for SSI," government officials wrote in the notice.
Citizens can submit comments on the proposal until Aug. 10 via the Web site Regulations.gov, by fax to (410)
966-2830, or by mail to:
Commissioner of Social Security P.O. Box 17703 Baltimore, Md. 21235
Comments also can be hand-delivered to SSA's Office of Regulations at 922 Altmeyer
Building, 6401 Security Blvd., Baltimore, between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
Marion, Illinois, Mayor
Would Welcome Guantanamo Prisoners
Produced by City Room
downstate Illinois mayor says he'd welcome the transfer of former Guantanamo Bay detainees to a prison in his city. Robert
Butler is the mayor of Marion, Illinois. He says his hometown federal prison could hold some of the 229 suspected terrorists
once the prison in Cuba closes.
BUTLER: If they're not going to shoot them, or ship them to the North Pole or some
place - get them out of society and keep them out - this facility would probably be as good as any.
Illinois U.S. Sen.
Dick Durbin suggests the Marion penitentiary could be expanded to accommodate Guantanamo detainees. But a representative for
the federal Bureau of Prisons says she's not aware of any plans to move terror suspects to Marion.
Critics say holding
suspected terrorists in the United States would pose a security threat.
Doubts on Handling Terror Detainees End at U.S. Prison Gates
By SOLOMON MOORE
VICTORVILLE, Calif. — The watchtowers of the federal penitentiary here rise above the
desert hills like austere minarets. Inside, about 1,500 men are held in cells encased in thick concrete. The prison is wired
with electronic sensors and cameras. Some 220 correctional officers keep watch.
The men here are among the most dangerous and most violent criminals in the nation. They include assassins, drug kingpins
and members of fearsome criminal gangs. Officials say the penitentiary also holds more than one of the 216 prisoners serving
time in the United States for crimes related to international terrorism.
Prisons like this could figure prominently in the Obama administration’s effort to close the prison at the naval
base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Politicians in both parties have expressed doubts that mainland prisons could safely hold those
detainees, but federal prison officials say they share no such qualms.
Since the Victorville United States Penitentiary opened in 2005, no one has escaped, nor, prison officials said, has anyone
even tried. No international terrorist has escaped from any part of the federal prison system, officials say.
“We’re more concerned about gangs like the Aryan Brotherhood, the Crips and the Bloods than anything having
to do with terrorists,” said Joseph L. Norwood, the warden at the Victorville prison complex, which also has three lower-security
prisons with a total of 4,400 inmates.
In negotiations over a $106 billion supplemental spending bill for the Iraq and Afghan wars, Congress recently reached
a temporary compromise that allows detainees from Guantánamo to come to the United States to face trial. The deal will give
the Obama administration time to rework its plan to close the Guantánamo prison by next January.
Last week, the first Guantánamo detainee to be transferred to the United States for trial, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, was
arraigned on charges that he had conspired to bomb the United States Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. He is at the
Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan.
Bureau of Prison officials declined for security reasons to provide a list of names or locations of imprisoned international
terrorists, but they agreed to offer a tour of the penitentiary here, about 70 miles northeast of Los Angeles, to demonstrate
the kind of security that would be in place should Guantánamo detainees be moved to prisons like this one.
In a recent visit, Mr. Norwood, a quiet, stocky man with a crew cut, led a reporter from a conference room near the front
of the penitentiary through a pair of sliding metal gates that never open at the same time.
Beyond the gates is a 20-foot “no man’s land” between the administrative offices and the inmate housing
units. A collapsible barbed wire fence runs along the outside of the strip. Razor wire swirls along the fence, which is rigged
with sensors to detect attempted breaches. At night, the security strip is bathed in light and kept under constant surveillance
by guards with rifles.
Beyond another set of airlock security doors is a long hallway separating the inmates’ living quarters and the dining
hall from the dusty recreational fields and basketball courts at the center of the prison. The hall is interrupted by gates
every several feet to control the prisoners’ movement.
“Our thing is control,” said Charles Ringwood, a prison spokesman. “The schedule is controlled. All movements
are controlled. Everything has to be controlled.”
Standing above the prison yard, Guard Tower 7 forms the hub of the penitentiary. Wire fences slice the recreation yard
into sections. Inmates in standard-issue khaki uniforms played a full-court basketball game in one section; in another, inmates
walked in a circle. There were no free weights, which have been banned in most federal prisons.
Inmates live in six triangular housing pods arrayed around the prison yard, each holding about 250 prisoners. Inmates from
different housing units rarely associate with one another. Each housing pod has two levels of cells around a common area.
Inmates can use earphones to listen to televisions, which are affixed to a post. The area has payphones and a microwave for
food bought at the commissary.
Inmates sleep in two-bunk cells. Random searches are conducted daily. Prisoners are counted five times each day —
at 4 p.m., 10 p.m., midnight, 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. Inmates deemed to be “high security risks,” including some international
terrorists, must check in with prison staff members every two hours. Those who do not may be sent to the Special Handling
Unit, a set of isolation cells where inmates have little or no contact with others.
The isolation cells were full, Mr. Norwood said, with 235 inmates there for reasons including violence and disobeying commands.
Some are there to be protected from other prisoners. Prisoners generally stay in isolation cells for one to six months, Mr.
The Bureau of Prisons Web site shows that international terrorists are held at many of its 115 facilities, including some
medium- and low-security prisons. Officials say they are up to the task.
Bryan Lowry, a union leader for federal correctional officers and a guard at the medium-security prison in Forrest City,
Ark., said terrorists were handled like any other inmates.
“At Forrest City we’ve housed some terrorists like Terry Nichols and Timothy McVeigh” of the Oklahoma
City bombing, Mr. Lowry said. “We have detained some very dangerous, violent inmates. But our staff are well-trained.
We are professional, and I believe we can take on any mission and house any type of inmate.”
House members ask Obama to bring back labor-management partnerships
By Alyssa Rosenberg
Three Democratic lawmakers have asked President Obama to restore a labor-management partnership council established by
President Clinton and abolished by President Bush.
"Union leaders with whom we have spoken agree that the labor-management partnership recognized the importance of employees
and their employee representatives to smooth collegial decision-making in the government," wrote Reps. Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y.,
and Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., in a June 2 letter to the president. "The council served
the essential purpose of maintaining communication between the heads of executive agencies and the president to better serve
Clinton created the governmentwide National Partnership Council in a 1993 executive order, and directed agencies to establish
their own groups. But Bush shut down the partnerships with a 2001 executive order. In 2007, Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill., and
Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, introduced legislation that would have written the councils into law; the bill did not make it
out of committee in either chamber of Congress.
Reviving the labor-management partnerships has been a priority for federal unions, though there has been some disagreement
about the form the partnerships should take. John Gage, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, has
said he would prefer a version of partnership that did not require employee and management representatives to be trained in
negotiation tactics that focus on reaching compromises and consensus. Other unions have praised the Clinton-era partnerships
for fostering greater collaboration between labor and management, and a number have submitted drafts of a potential executive
"Partnership, collaboration, cooperation -- it does not matter what it is called," said Colleen Kelley, president of the
National Treasury Employees Union. "The idea is that a mechanism be established by which employees' voices can be heard in
a nonadversarial forum where everyone retains their rights and where the objective is raising and talking through ideas that
address ways to reach common goals."
Even absent an executive order, the Obama administration has shown some interest in restoring partnership. Lisa Jackson,
administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, voluntarily restarted EPA's partnership council. And Office of Personnel
Management Director John Berry said during his confirmation hearing that he wanted to increase labor-management collaboration
within OPM to set a strong example for the rest of government.
On June 14, 2009, at 4:00 PM, while conducting the official count, staff at the Taft Correctional
Institution discovered that one inmate was missing from the Institution’s Satellite Camp facility. The Satellite Camp
is a minimum-security facility that houses approximately 550 federal inmates. There is no security fence around the facility,
which is common for a minimum-security facility within the federal prison system. Minimum security is the lowest security
level in the federal prison system.
Taft Correctional Institution immediately contacted all appropriate law enforcement
agencies including the Taft Police Department, Bakersfield Police Department, Kern County Sheriff’s Department, California
Highway Patrol, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Maricopa Police Department, Federal Bureau of Prisons, and United States
Inmate Stephen Thomas, Register Number 08654-062, was sentenced on November 9, 2000, in the Northern
District of Oklahoma, to 240 months in federal custody for Conspiracy To Possess With Intent To Distribute A Controlled Substance.
He arrived at the Taft Correctional Institution Satellite Camp on March 24, 2008, as a lesser security transfer from FCI Texarkana.
His projected release date was November 14, 2017, via Good Conduct Time Release.
If anyone suspects they have seen
this individual or obtains information as to his location, please contact the Taft Correctional Institution at 661-763-2510,
or any of the law enforcement agencies listed in this press release.
Schock says closing Guantanamo poses risks to U.S.
The Guantanamo Bay detention center, with the largest known al-Qaida cell in the world being held there, is an invaluable
asset to U.S. military and intelligence operations, said U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock.
Closing it would strip the U.S. military of key information in fighting terrorism and pose a threat to national security,
said Schock, R-Peoria, who toured the facility in Cuba on Monday with five other members of Congress.
"Individuals who will remain there are the most hardened criminals who pose the greatest danger and threat to the U.S.,
and there is no safer or more appropriate place to keep them than Guantanamo Bay," Schock said. ". . . A place that has a
stellar reputation of treatment, of security with no escapes and still allows us to gather assets for our intelligence community.
"When (military officials) are describing who the individuals are, what they have done and what they can do, the plots
that they've discovered, the information they've been able to provide our government, you are very glad that they are there
and not here."
On the tour with Schock were three other Republicans and two Democrats, including U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Evanston.
During the five- to six-hour tour, the group saw all six detainee camps - three now are vacant - which include minimum to
maximum security facilities and house upward of 250 prisoners, mostly captured in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist
attacks, Schock said.
President Barack Obama has vowed to shutter the prison by early 2010. The Senate recently voted to keep the prison open
and forbid the transfer of detainees to the United States after a similar move in the House.
At its height, the facility housed about 500 prisoners. The least harmful have been processed and sent back to their home
countries, and those who remain are the most dangerous and still operate under the al-Qaida hierarchy of power, Schock said
he was told.
The Peoria congressman was surprised to learn torture techniques never have been used at Guantanamo Bay. He said prisoners
have access to a library, computers, television, newspapers and receive three meals daily.
Military officials "never invoked involuntary interrogation. They (gather information) by building relationships with individuals,"
Allowing those prisoners to infiltrate U.S. prisons poses safety concerns not only to the communities in which they reside,
but the prisoners and others who could be subject to their "hatred and ideology," Schock said.
U.S. Sen Dick Durbin, D-Springfield, has called Guantanamo a "recruiting tool for terrorists around the world" and said
it should be closed. U.S. prisons are capable for handling the transfers, he continued.
"The reality is that we are already holding some of the world's most dangerous terrorists in federal prisons, including
the mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombings, the Shoebomber, the Unabomber and many others," Durbin said in May.
"The Bureau of Prisons is currently holding 347 convicted terrorists. Clearly, our prison guards know how to hold terrorists."
Some Democrats oppose closing the facility, saying bringing detainees from Cuba to the U.S. could pose security threats.
U.S. Rep. Phil Hare, D-Rock Island, also does not support closing Guantanamo Bay.
"It has become a moral black eye for our nation and a detriment to our national security," said Hare spokesman Tim Schlittner.
"However, (Hare) believes the president should submit a detailed plan regarding how and where detainees will be housed
before proceeding with its closure."
Schock said a more logical approach is more transparency into Guantanamo.
"It's very easy to be critical of a facility you've never seen, of a process you know very little about," Schock said.
"There is no price that can be put on keeping America safe. And there is no better place for them to be other than Guantanamo
Union criticizes prison bureau for understaffing, lack of safety equipment
By Alyssa Rosenberg
June 12, 2009
The American Federation of Government Employees blasted the leadership of
the Bureau of Prisons on Thursday, saying the agency was understaffed and jeopardized corrections officers' safety by failing
to provide them with stab-resistant vests. An agency spokeswoman said the bureau was working on both issues.
"We have lost all faith in the Bureau of Prisons management," said John Gage,
president of AFGE. "We think their whole understanding of the mission of the bureau is outdated, it's wrong. We are taking
our case to the attorney general; we believe it is his responsibility to correct this situation immediately."
Between 2002 and 2006, the agency lost about 4,600 correctional officers as
the inmate population in federal prisons rose, according to Phil Glover, legislative coordinator for AFGE's Council of Prison
Locals. In 2000, there were 145,000 people incarcerated at 115 federal prison facilities, the union said. Today, those facilities
hold 205,000 inmates.
Inadequate staffing contributed to an increase in violent incidents, AFGE
officials said. Between fiscal 2005 and 2006, inmate assaults on other inmates rose 15.5 percent, and assaults on prison staff
rose 6 percent, according to the union's statistics.
President Obama included funding for a Bureau of Prisons staff boost in his
fiscal 2010 budget proposal, but Gage said he was concerned that the agency's director, Harley Lappin, would spend the money
on other priorities. Felicia Ponce, a spokeswoman for the bureau, said the agency planned to make new hires "to the maximum
extent possible within the enacted resources."
Staffing is only one of the issues AFGE is targeting. Union officials said
the bureau should provide all correctional officers with stab-resistant vests when they work in dangerous units. The vests
cost about $400 each, and must be custom-fitted to be effective.
In a November letter to Lappin and a May follow-up to Attorney General Eric
Holder, AFGE said the bureau was making vests available only to corrections officers who asked for them. The agency then subjected
those officers to disciplinary action if they did not wear the vests at all times, even if they were doing office work, union
Ponce said the final policy would be determined by negotiations between the
Council of Prison Locals and the bureau, echoing the agency's March 2009 response to AFGE General Counsel Mark Roth's November
"Both the union and BOP management supported ordering and issuing stab-resistant
vests to staff prior to conducting bargaining," Ponce said. "Negotiations regarding the vests are presently under way, and
the parties have successfully negotiated many proposals."
Gage said he thought the agency should not wait until bargaining is over to
give officers vests and nonlethal weapons such as pepper spray, Tasers and batons.
Safety issues have become particularly heated as the one-year anniversary
of the murder of corrections officer Jose Rivera by two federal inmates approaches. Rivera's family has filed a $100 million
lawsuit against the bureau, Lappin and other agency officials.
The Justice Department Board of Inquiry's report on Rivera's June 20, 2008,
stabbing found that the U.S. penitentiary in Atwater, Calif., where Rivera worked, had 332 staffers, even though there were
389 positions available. Thirty percent of the prison's workers had less than three years of experience, and 80 percent had
been with the bureau for less than a decade.
The report also noted that the coroner who examined Rivera determined the
cause of his death was two stab wounds that punctured his heart, though he was stabbed many more times. AFGE and Mark Peacock,
the lawyer representing Rivera's family, contend that if Rivera had been wearing a stab-resistant vest, he would not have
died in the assault.
Ponce said that because court cases against Rivera's assailants and Peacock's
civil suit are pending, and because the bureau has not released the Board of Inquiry's report, the bureau would not comment
on the report or its recommendations.
Marking guard's slaying, activist seek changes at federal prisons
Michael Doyle | McClatchy Newspapers
last updated: June 11, 2009 07:30:45 PM
WASHINGTON — Union activists are using the one-year anniversary of Atwater prison guard Jose Rivera's slaying to
amplify their demands for reform and reinforcements.
Stabbed to death at U.S. Penitentiary Atwater on June 20, 2008, Rivera is now near the status of political symbol. On Thursday,
his picture stood near center stage as union leaders repeated their call for the resignation of Bureau of Prisons Director Harley Lappin.
"We have lost all faith in the Bureau of Prisons' management," John Gage, president of the American Federation
of Government Employees, declared at the National Press Club.
Gage previously asked Attorney General Eric Holder to fire Lappin in May, as have, repeatedly, leaders of the affiliated Council of Prison Locals. Holder
has not responded publicly, and there's no apparent groundswell of anti-Lappin sentiment on Capitol
A Bureau of Prisons spokesman could not be reached to comment.
But with events like the news conference Thursday, and with a newly filed
lawsuit promising to shed more light on how Rivera died, family members and leaders of the unions that represent correctional
workers are trying to reclaim the offensive.
"We're angry," Council of Prison Locals President Bryan Lowery said Thursday. "We're upset."
Specifically, the union leaders want more guards to handle the 206,000 inmates now in federal prison.
Currently, the Bureau of Prisons employs about 16,000 correctional officers
-- guards -- in addition to about 28,000 other correctional workers. The union leaders also seek wider distribution of stab-resistant
From Congress, the activists hope for increased overall funding as well as hearings into prison safety issues.
"Tight budgets have ... meant that we have not been able to increase our staffing to the level necessary to keep pace with
the population growth," Lappin acknowledged in testimony before a House panel in March, adding that "increased crowding and
an increase in the inmate-to-staff ratio result in an increase in serious assaults."
The unions' public relations campaign includes a bit of hype, like the four members
of Congress who were said to have been invited to the National Press Club
news conference but who did not show up. The applause following some of the presentations Thursday came not from journalists
but from union supporters filling the room. Those attending included Andy Krotik, an Atwater Realtor and spokesman for Friends & Family of Correctional Officers.
"They're right on the mark," Krotik said of the concerns raised anew Thursday.
Rivera became the first federal correctional officer in a decade to die
in the line of duty when he was stabbed. Prosecutors have charged former Atwater inmates Jose Cabrera Sablan and James Ninete
Leon Guerrero with the killing.
The June 20 slaying occurred one day after Guerrero arrived from another federal prison, from which he had been transferred
for disciplinary reasons. According to a Justice Department Board of Inquiry
report, obtained by attorney Mark Peacock on behalf of Rivera's family, Sablan, Guerrero and other inmates "began consuming
intoxicants" during the afternoon Rivera died.
The Board of Inquiry report states that Sablan first attacked the 22-year-old Rivera, who then ran. The inmates pursued
him. Rivera head-butted Guerrero and then kept running until he was tackled by Guerrero, who reportedly held him down while
Sablan stabbed the officer with an ice pick-type weapon.
"Inmate Sablan struck Officer Rivera approximately eight times in the torso until the arrival of the first staff on the
scene," the report states.
The first staffer to arrive was an unarmed female secretary, and the second was an unarmed female unit manager. The unit
manager "did not intervene or render assistance during the assault," the report found.
The Bureau of Prisons counts secretaries and administrative unit managers, among other non-guard correctional workers,
in calculating that there's a roughly 5:1 inmate-to-correctional staff ratio nationwide. Union officials contend this leaves
a misleadingly optimistic impression about correctional staffing.
Federal prisoners are transported via public bus lines
Posted by: Budget Travel, Wednesday,
Jun 10, 2009
In the past three years, about 5,000 minimum-security inmates have traveled between prisons on Greyhound
and other bus lines.
Only inmates who are near their release date and who are judged to be "a minimum security risk" are sent on commercial
Some bus owners are upset. Bus operators do not accept on their coaches "unguarded prisoners still serving time for their
crimes," a spokesperson for their association tells Budget Travel. Greyhound and hundreds of other bus operators
did not know about this practice until this spring, the spokesperson adds. The story was broken by investigative reporters
with the Dallas/Ft. Worth TV station WFAA.
But it will be difficult for bus drivers do anything about the practice. The inmates are on furlough, and during a furlough
an inmate can wear ordinary personal or work-release clothing. In other words, no one would recognize these passengers as
prisoners by their dress.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons has not changed its practice of buying bus tickets for inmates, despite a letter of complaint
from the bus owners' group. A spokesperson for the Bureau of Prisons says that using their staff or any other type of escort
would be an unnecessary cost to the taxpayer. The Bureau spends more than $1.5 million a year on bus tickets for inmates from
all 114 of its institutions.
It turns out that there are two types of inmates traveling by bus.
The first group is not controversial. These are inmates leaving prison for good, heading to halfway houses (listed here),
where they're able to find jobs, attend medical appointments, and sign up for schooling. These inmates have served their allotted
jail time. They travel without escorts. The federal government bought bus tickets for about 84,600 of these inmates in the
past three years. And America's major bus lines don't mind these passengers. If an inmate has "paid his or her debt to society"
and is "deemed rehabilitative," they're welcome to ride, says a spokesperson for the bus owners's association.
A second, smaller group of inmates is controversial, however. Nearly 5,400 inmates in this group have been transferred
in recent years from minimum-security prison camps to other minimum-security prison camps. These are minimum risk offenders,
a spokesperson for the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) told Budget Travel. The inmates are non-violent, just as Martha Stewart
was when she was jailed. Naturally, the prisons for these minimum-security prisoners don't need perimeter fences or armed
Out of this latter group of prisoners, a few do escape from the buses as they travel between prison camps. For example,
between 2003 and 2005, 77 inmates escaped en-route and 19 of them were not immediately taken back into custody, reports the
AP. But a spokesperson for the Bureau of Prisons says these numbers need to be put into perspective. Less than 0.2 percent
of inmates fail to report to their intended location. In other words, it's a rare occurrence. When inmates abscond, they run
the risk of being re-captured and returned to a higher security institution than they had previously been in.
Note: Maximum-security prisoners are never transported by commercial bus. Those prisoners are always escorted by armed
officers from prison to prison, says a Bureau spokeswoman.
Greyhound has asked federal authorities to stop using its buses. Its officials remain concerned and "support[s] the industry's
efforts to put a stop to it," a company spokeswoman tells Budget Travel. Greyhound has worked informally with the
Bureau of Prisons in the past by escorting completely released prisoners from institutions, but has never had a corporate
contract, a Greyhound spokeswoman told Budget Travel. (As noted above, Greyhound isn't only company used to transport
prisoners. Other bus companies and taxi services around the U.S. are used, too.)
What do you think about the federal policy of sending inmates via major bus lines along with other passengers?
Worker at U.S. Penitentiary Atwater predicted trouble day before deadly attack
By CORINNE REILLY
A manager at U.S. Penitentiary Atwater predicted that someone would be killed if the two inmates accused
of murdering correctional officer Jose Rivera were allowed to live near each other, according to a newly released FBI report.
Even so, the inmates were placed in the same housing unit, the report says.
Rivera, a 22-year-old Navy veteran, was stabbed to death by two inmates inside a housing unit at the prison on June 20,
One of the inmates accused of killing him, James Leon Guerrero, was transferred to USP Atwater for disciplinary reasons
the day before the murder. According to the FBI report, which was released this week by an attorney representing Rivera's
family, a housing unit manager at the prison warned against placing Guerrero in the same unit as Joseph Cabrera Sablan, the
other inmate accused in Rivera's murder.
She told other prison employees they'd "be lucky" if the two were housed together and no one was killed, the report says.
The unit manager, 47-year-old Marie Orozco, decided before Guerrero arrived on June 19 that he should be placed in a cell
area known as Unit Two. Later that day, an investigative officer at the prison, Jesse Estrada, approached Orozco and informed
her that Guerrero instead would be placed in Unit Five, where Sablan lived, the FBI report says.
"Estrada stated he knew Guerrero from U.S. Penitentiary Florence, that he could be disruptive, but felt he would be fine
in unit five," the report says.
Orozco then suggested that Guerrero be placed in a special, more secure housing unit, according to the report. It says
Estrada dismissed the idea and told Orozco it would benefit Guerrero to take part in classes and other programs that are denied
to inmates living in secured housing.
Orozco told FBI investigators that she responded to Estrada by saying, "OK, if that's what you're going to do. We'll be
lucky if he doesn't end up killing somebody before the night is out."
Still, Orozco agreed to place Guerrero in Unit Five with Sablan, the report says. Rivera was stabbed to death inside the
unit the next day.
Guerrero and Sablan have been charged with premeditated murder. They've pleaded not guilty.
The Sun-Star has previously reported that Guerrero and Sablan were both from Guam and that they were longtime friends.
Both were serving life sentences and both had attacked correctional officers before.
Orozco was recently transferred to another federal prison in Victorville. Reached at work, she said she couldn't comment.
Estrada still works at USP Atwater. He couldn't be reached at home or at work. Messages left for him at the penitentiary weren't
Rivera's family has filed a $100 million claim against the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the agency that oversees USP Atwater.
Both Orozco and Estrada are named in the claim.
Also named are Dennis Smith, who was USP Atwater's warden at the time of Rivera's death; Harley Lappin, the director of
the Bureau of Prisons; Robert McFadden, director of the bureau's western region; and one other USP Atwater employee, identified
in the claim only as Officer Ziragosa.
The three-page FBI report, dated July 2, 2008, is based on an investigator's interview with Orozco.
The FBI has declined to release any reports related to Rivera's death. The Rivera family's attorney, Mark Peacock, published
the July 2 report on his firm's Web site this week.
"Ms. Orozco predicted exactly what was going to happen and then did nothing to stop it," Peacock said in an interview Tuesday.
"Shame on her for giving up so easily ... and shame on (Estrada) for ignoring all the facts here."
Peacock argues that Orozco should have insisted on separating Guerrero and Sablan and appealed to a superior if Estrada
continued to disagree. Orozco and Estrada were both considered managers at the time of Rivera's death, with neither one outranking
the other, officials at USP Atwater have said.
"The least they could have done was warned Jose Rivera, the poor guy who would be watching these inmates," Peacock said.
"But no one did."
According to the FBI report, Orozco later told investigators she was exaggerating when she said the prison would be lucky
if Guerrero didn't kill someone.
"Orozco stated that if she really felt Guerrero was that dangerous, and had she really felt like he was absolutely going
to injure someone, she would have continued to disagree and taken the matter up with a higher authority," the report says.
In interviews last week, six USP Atwater officers told the Sun-Star that investigative officers at the prison often override
unit managers' decisions on cell and unit assignments, as was done in Guerrero's case, even though that practice violates
The officers, who asked not to be named for fear of retaliation by the Bureau of Prisons, said most investigative officers
use inmate snitches and that they often afford them extra privileges in exchange for information on other prisoners, including
better unit and cell assignments.
Other USP Atwater employees have said that investigative officers sometimes help certain inmates avoid punishment for misbehaving,
namely informants and prisoners who are considered "shot-callers" or leaders of inmate gangs.
The officers interviewed last week said the problem has improved somewhat since Rivera's death, with unit assignments now
being made in line with policy far more often. "Everyone's more careful now about that stuff," one officer said. "The unit
managers aren't being overridden nearly as much."
Rivera had worked at USP Atwater, a high-security prison at the former Castle Air Force Base, for less than a year. A Department
of Justice investigation report said Sablan used an ice pick-like weapon -- probably made from parts of a cafeteria dishwasher
-- to stab Rivera at least 28 times while Guerrero held him down.
Both inmates were drunk at the time, the report said.
In line with USP Atwater policy, Rivera was alone with more than 100 prisoners when the assault took place. He was wearing
no protective equipment and carrying no weapons.
The Department of Justice report said alcohol was widely available to inmates inside USP Atwater and that previous internal
investigation had warned of earlier uses of dishwasher parts to assault correctional officers there. It said weapons searches
weren't adequate and that the prison had failed to stop inmates from taking dishwasher parts, even though it was known they
were being used to make shives.
The report also said no one else working near Rivera had keys to the housing unit where he was killed, which prevented
the earliest responders from reaching and helping him.
The USP Atwater officers interviewed last week said the key issue has since been resolved and that the prison now takes
steps to prevent inmates from removing parts from the dishwasher. They said USP Atwater's new warden, Hector Rios Jr., has
reduced the availability of sugary foods inside the prison in an attempt to decrease inmates' ability to make and sell alcohol.
Still, the officers said, alcohol use among prisoners remains a widespread problem, as does inmate-made weaponry.
The officers said the Bureau of Prisons began increasing the inmate population at USP Atwater in May. The number of inmates
there was decreased from 1,100 to roughly 900 soon after Rivera's death. The Bureau of Prisons also transferred out many of
its high-risk inmates last year.
The officers said USP Atwater began taking on high-risk inmates again last month and that its current population is now
higher than it was before Rivera's death. Since then, the prison has experienced an increase in fights and assaults, the officers
Besides replacing USP Atwater's warden after Rivera's death, the Bureau of Prisons has begun supplying stab-resistant vests
to employees who want them. The officers said some of the vests are already falling apart because they are of low quality.
"We have some guys holding their vests together with duct tape," one officer said. Another said some new hires have waited
more than six months to receive vests.
Phone messages and requests for comment e-mailed to the Bureau of Prisons weren't returned.
Officials with USP Atwater declined to answer questions by phone but spokesman Jesse Gonzalez said in an e-mail that the
number of assaults at the prison has decreased in the first half of 2009 compared with the last half of 2008. He said USP
Atwater also has recorded fewer incidents of alcohol and weapons possession among inmates.
He said prison officials have not been made aware of any problems with the stab-resistant vests and that USP Atwater's
new warden, Rios, has taken a number of steps to improve safety. He has ordered more training for staff and new restrictions
on inmate movement, increased the accessibility of the prison's executive staff, boosted searches for weapons and added regular
staff intelligence briefings to the prison's routine, Gonzalez said.
The third of five children, Rivera lived in Chowchilla and graduated from Le Grand High School in 2003. He enlisted in
the U.S. Navy shortly after and served four years in the military, including two tours in Iraq.
Guerrero and Sablan are scheduled for trial in September 2010. They could face the death penalty if they're convicted.
AFGE Takes on the Bureau of Prisons
Alyssa RosenbergThursday, June 11, 2009 10:01 AM
I'm at a press conference right now where the American Federation of Government Employees is launching an all-out assault
on the Bureau of Prisons for failing to address safety issues faced by prison guards. John Gage, AFGE's president, just said:
"We have lost all faith in the BOP management. We think their whole understanding of the mission of the bureau
is outdated, it's wrong. They care more about public relations than they do the safety of our officers. We are taking our
case to the Attorney General; we believe it is his responsibility to correct this situation immediately, and that would be
by removing Mr. Lappin, as well as, for heaven's sake, give us the simple tools we have been requesting: vests for our officers
to wear in dangerous posts, as well as some non-lethal weaponry such as tasers, pepper spray, or batons. It's incredible to
us that the bureau is making this a labor dispute, that they refuse to give these basic, common-sense tools to our officers.
We feel, in the Rivera case, if these simple things we are asking had been granted, he would be alive today."
They're working with the lawyers for Jose Rivera, a 22-year-old prison guard who served two deployments in Iraq as a member
of the Navy, who was killed by inmates in the prison where he worked on June 20,2008. The family wants $100 million from the
Bureau. AFGE wants officers to be able to wear stab-proof vests and carry pepper spray, tasers, and batons in high-risk facilities.
Family of Slain Correctional Officer Jose Rivera Files $100 Million Claim Against the Federal
Bureau of Prisons and Their Administrators for Wrongful Death
DATELINE: NEWPORT BEACH, Calif., June 9
NEWPORT BEACH, Calif., June 9 /PRNewswire/ -- Mark J. Peacock, Esq. of the Law Offices of Mark Peacock representing
the family of Jose Rivera, today announced the filing of a Federal Tort Claim (seeking 100 million dollars) against Federal
Bureau of Prisons, Harley Lappin (Director of the United States Federal Bureau of Prisons); Robert McFadden (Regional Director,
Western Region United States Federal Bureau of Prisons); Dennis Smith (Warden USP Atwater); SIS technician Ziragosa (SIS
Technician USP Atwater); Marie Orozco (USP Atwater Unit Manager); and Lt. Jesse Estrada (SIS Office - USP Atwater). The
family has filed their claim against these individuals/entity for their "deliberate indifference" which led to Officer
Rivera's death. According to the claim, on June 20, 2008, at the USP Atwater in Atwater, California, United State Federal
Correctional Officer Jose Rivera, in only his 10th month with the United States Bureau of Prisons, was fatally stabbed
by two apparently intoxicated inmates: Jose Cabrera Sablan and James Ninete Leon Guerrero (the assailants) both serving
life terms. The US Attorney General's office is seeking the death penalty against the assailants. Sablan, previously convicted
for Murder, Attempted Murder, and Felony Escape, also had a significant disciplinary history: Assaulting with Serious Injury,
Fighting, Possessing a Dangerous Weapon, Possessing Drugs and Intoxicants, and Physically Assaulting a Female Correctional
Officer. Guerrero, previously convicted for Conspiracy to Commit Armed Bank Robbery, has a history of assaulting staff,
including several incidents of serious assault and fighting with inmates. "This tragedy is especially difficult because
it was so avoidable.Correctional Officer Jose V. Riverawas 22 years old at the time of his death. He was afour-year veteran
of theU.S.Navy, andcompleted two tours of military duty inIraq. He began his career at USPAtwateras a Correctional Officer
onAugust 5, 2007, and was in his probationary year. Jose faithfully served the people of theUnited Statesas a peace officer
managing violent criminals and his life was unnecessarily cut short. Who is really responsible for his death?" said Mark
Peacock attorney for the Rivera family. "The Rivera family would like the people who were accountable for their son's death
to stand up and take responsibility for their inaction and deliberate indifference. Why wasn't a stab-resistant vest given
to Officer Rivera? Why didn't Officer Rivera have any weaponry? Pepper spray? A Baton? Anything? Why was inmate Guerrero
placed in general population? Why were prisoners drunk? No one in the Bureau of Prisons appear to have any sense of urgency
in protecting their officers. The Rivera family would like to know why not. If Officer Rivera had been wearing his protective
vest or had been armed it appears highly probable that he would have survived the attack which killed him" added Peacock. The
claim contends that the Bureau of Prison Administration (Lappin, Smith, et al.) were responsible for the multiple dangerous
conditions at USP Atwater which existed at the prison at the time of the murder. These dangerous conditions included, among
others: 1. Assignment of the assailants/prisoners to a lower level of custody than warranted by their violent history/known
violent propensities. 2. Classification, placement, incarceration and over-all handling of the assailants/prisoners
while they were incarcerated at USP Atwater 3. Allowing assailants/prisoners to choose their own cells 4. Allowing prisoners
to assert & maintain control 5. Knowledge that assailants were likely to assault and kill decedent Correctional
Officer Rivera, other correctional staff and/or other inmates 6. Assailants/prisoners allowed to make & consume intoxicants 7.
Deplorable Key Management preventing life saving response by other staff 8. Deplorable intake procedures of assailants/prisoners 9.
Indifference to dangerous and violent propensities of the prisoner population 10. Indifference in maintaining a seriously
undermanned custody work force 11. Glaring deficiencies and repugnant state of prison management and security controls 12.
Indifference to general ease at which prisoners manufacture & maintain weapons 13. Indifference by failing to arm
correctional officers (i.e., no pepper spray, batons, TASER guns) 14. Indifference at decreasing staffing levels 15.
Refusal to issue a stab resistant vest and/or other protective equipment 16. Indifference to effect of exploding inmate
population on staff and local communities Correctional Officer Rivera was subjected to these dangerous conditions, (and
others), and yet the responsible individuals acted with deliberate indifference by failing and refusing to protect him.
"The Rivera family wants to know why these two inmates were where they were at the time of the murder. That's a good question.
It appears that Guerrero was a 'disciplinary transfer'. He had been in lock down at his previous prison; so why wasn't
he immediately placed into lock down when he came toAtwaterinstead of being released into general population?" continued
Peacock. "It appears obvious that the inmates had taken control of the prison system." "Worse yet, the site Unit Manager,
Marie Orozco, who is apparently in charge of prisoner placement atAtwater, predicted just such an attack," said Peacock."Well,
tragically, her prediction proved to be accurate."After suggesting that inmate Guerrero should be placed in Secure Housing
Unit (lock down), Ms. Orozco was overruled by one Lt. Jesse Estrada and Guerrero was placed in general population. Upon
hearing that Guerrero was to be placed in general population with Sablan, Orozco stated that they were "going to put him
with another killer," and, she predicted, "Okayif that is what you are going to do. We'll be lucky if he doesn't end up
killing somebody before the night is out." "Within 24 hours of these grossly regrettable decisions, Officer Jose Rivera
was dead. He had no idea of the bear trap that had been set for him by the Bureau of Prisons. They gave him no warning,
no equipment to safeguard himself, and no weaponry with which defend himself. Nothing. If he had had a simple canister
of pepper spray he would have been able to have a fighting chance to save himself. The Bureau hadn't even given him that.
He used the only weapon he had: his head. He head-butted one of his attackers. That was all he had against two inmates
who were fully armed," said Peacock. "It is unbelievable that they would allow our correctional officer to work in such a
violent environment with no back-up, no safety equipment and no weaponry. Absolutely unbelievable. Shame on anyone responsible
for failing Officer Rivera in that way." "As the Warden, Dennis Smith should have done everything within his control to
ensure the safety of the brave correctional officers who worked the beat atAtwater. This appears not to have occurred.
As a result, he failed in his duty to provide for the safe keeping of his officer staff, and in particular Officer Rivera,"
said Peacock. "He is accountable for the breakdown which allowed well-documented violent inmates into general population,
which further compounded an already unsafe situation. The Bureau of Prisons Administration participated in the creation
of the dangerous environment in which Officer Rivera worked, and were indifferent in subjecting him to this dangerous environment.
This was a totally unnecessary and tragic murder which could have, and should have, been avoided. These individuals dishonored
the correctional staff, and this dishonor contributed to the death of Officer Rivera." Officer Rivera suffered 28 sharp-force
injuries. Cause of death was determined to be two puncture wounds to the left chest which penetrated the heart muscle.
"The reality is that if Officer Rivera had been wearing a stab-resistant vest he could very well be alive today. Shame
on anyone in the Bureau of Prisons who has prevented the officers, Officer Rivera in particular, from getting a vest. How
many more officers must be killed or maimed before something is done," said Mark Peacock. It is the Rivera family's hope
and aim that this claim will help effect change within the Federal Bureau of Prisons so that inmates 6. Assailants/prisoners
allowed to make & consume intoxicants 7. Deplorable Key Management preventing life saving response by other staff 8.
Deplorable intake procedures of assailants/prisoners 9. Indifference to dangerous and violent propensities of the prisoner population 10.
Indifference in maintaining a seriously undermanned custody work force 11. Glaring deficiencies and repugnant state
of prison management and security controls 12. Indifference to general ease at which prisoners manufacture & maintain
weapons 13. Indifference by failing to arm correctional officers (i.e., no pepper spray, batons, TASER guns) 14.
Indifference at decreasing staffing levels 15. Refusal to issue a stab resistant vest and/or other protective equipment 16.
Indifference to effect of exploding inmate population on staff and local communities no other family will suffer the
loss of a loved one as they have had to suffer. To that extent, a website has been set up to help bring about necessary
changes and bring awareness to the grave dangers our brave correctional officers face on our behalf everyday (www.officerjoserivera.com).
It is also the Rivera family's hope that their beloved Jose never be forgotten, and that his death be not in vain. For
more detailed information on the Rivera tragedy, please review the following documents (which can be downloaded at http://www.markpeacocklaw.com 1. April 17, 2009 report issued by the Department of Justice/Federal Bureau of Prisons Board of Inquiry Report entitled,
"June 20, 2008, Homicide of Correctional Officer Jose Rivera United State penitentiary, Atwater, California"; 2.
FBI investigative document (302) - interviews with Marie Orozco & Lt. Jesse Estrada; 3. Federal Tort Claim (Rivera
Family); 4. Letters to all United States Senators; and 5. Letters to Pres. Barack Obama & cabinet (Vice Pres. Joseph
Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Attorney General Eric Holder
Union hears fears Gitmo detainees could one day come
The federal penitentiary at Lewisburg is stepping into a new role, one that is making correctional officers employed
at the prison worried about staffing levels and could bring dangerous inmates, possibly detainees from Guantanamo Bay, to
the area, according to union officials.
"(Guantanamo inmates) could be a possibility," said Bryan Lowry, president of the Council of Prison Locals 33, under the
American Federation of Government Employees.
"I would think that this type of environment would be the type of environment that we would want to put these inmates in,
especially if you weren't going to put them in Florence (super max facility in Colorado). It would have to be in some type
of special management unit, such as Lewisburg, or one of the few other institutions with the SMU designation."
The prison is undergoing a transformation into a "special management unit, " which would house "assaultive" or "combative"
inmates from other institutions around the country, according to Lowry.
This has raised concerns among employees that the prison does not have enough correctional officers to deal with such inmates,
said Lowry and Keith J. Hill, third district national vice president for the American Federation of Government Employees.
Both men toured the facility last Thursday with local union representatives and spoke with members of the staff.
"Each (employee) raised the same concern, and that was about the level of staffing," Hill said. "Something has to be done
"This is not only irresponsible, but possibly very dangerous and not well thought out," Lowry said.
Tony Liesenfeld, secretary-treasurer of the local union, said union officials estimate that 300 to 350 correctional officers
are needed to fully staff the institution, and said current staff members are "stressed out" by the work added by the SMU
transformation, which could lead to problems down the road.
"When staff members (anywhere) are stressed out, mistakes tend to happen, and when mistakes happen in a prison, people
get hurt," he said.
Liesenfeld said the stress and safety concerns are causing veteran employees to choose retirement as soon as the option
"The minute they are eligible to retire, they are out the door," he said.
The Lewisburg SMU would house between 1,200 to 1,500 inmates when the transition is completed, according to Liesenfeld,
including a small number of "cadre" inmates, who were in the general inmate population at Lewisburg before the transition.
According to the union representatives, inmates would be confined to their cells 23 hours a day, with one hour for recreation.
The prisoners would be organized into four "phases," which designate their behavioral level and the privileges they have earned,
such as face-to-face visits with family and friends and group socializing.
Lowry said overcrowded prisons and poor funding and staffing in facilities has led to an increase in prison violence across
"The trend is that violence has increased, not only inmate-on-inmate, but also inmate-on-employee," he said.
Without increasing staff to adequate levels, the threat of violence is a real possibility, Lowry said.
"It's only a matter of time before somebody's seriously injured," he said.
High-profile prisoners? Terre Haute residents are used to it
When the location of Terre Haute's new Wal-Mart Supercenter came
under debate three years ago, City Councilman Rich Dunkin received more than 300 phone calls about the issue.
So one would think he'd be getting an earful over the prospect of
moving suspected terrorists from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to a federal penitentiary in his district.
But Dunkin says he hasn't heard a peep.
Nationwide, the idea of closing the Guantanamo Bay detention center
has raised concerns that moving some of its roughly 240 detainees to U.S. prisons could pose safety risks to Americans living
near those high-security facilities.
But in Terre Haute, whose Federal Correctional Complex has become
a speculative candidate to receive some of the detainees, it's more a shrug of the shoulder than a hot topic of political
"I don't think there's any heartburn one way or another," Dunkin
said of the sentiment in his mostly blue-collar city 70 miles west of Indianapolis. "We wouldn't even feel the presence of
those people in this community."
Many experts agree that fears about detainees escaping or plotting
a terrorist attack are overstated. That's particularly true, they say, at a penitentiary such as Terre Haute, which already
has housed high-profile terrorists, as well as inmates on federal Death Row.
"The Bureau of Prisons handles members from some of the most violent
gangs in the U.S., which pose a risk to society equal to terror suspects," said Darrell Legg, a consultant who worked in prisons
ranging from minimum to high security for the Bureau of Prisons for 21 years. "These guys are no more dangerous than the leader
of the Mexican Mafia or the Aryan Brotherhood."
Not everyone sees it that way. Last month, the Democrat-controlled
U.S. Senate voted to reject a request for $80 million to shut down Gitmo and sought assurances that the detainees would not
be brought to the U.S.
A recent USA Today/Gallup poll showed that Americans oppose closing
Guantanamo by 2-to-1 and oppose moving its suspected terrorists here by 3-to-1. The Web site GOPUSA recently sent a mass e-mail
warning of the dangers of bringing suspected terrorists to American soil.
Some of that sentiment has been shared in Indiana, where the Senate
passed a resolution urging President Barack Obama to keep Gitmo detainees away from Terre Haute. But when the resolution was
proposed, even Terre Haute's mayor noted the momentum behind it came from lawmakers on the opposite end of the state.
"I just got the feeling in town that there was a lot of shrugging
shoulders," said Max Jones, editor of the local newspaper, the Terre Haute Tribune-Star. "I didn't sense any outrage whatsoever."
Though they're not calling political representatives, some who live
closest to the complex say they'd prefer to keep suspected terrorists out of the facility.
"There is that thought that it could become a designated area for
an attack," said John Cheesman, 50, who lives about a mile from the complex. "My thought is if they can take out New York
like they did, this is nothing."
Neighbor Mary Browning, however, sees it differently.
"They have good security over there, and they would have the same
security for (Guantanamo detainees)," said Browning, 85. "They've brought people here who have done some terrible things,
and they had to put them to death, and we never knew it took place."
If Guantanamo Bay does close, Obama has made clear, detainees will
need to be brought to the U.S. to be held in the country's highest-security penitentiaries. Dean Boyd, a Justice Department
spokesman, said some recommendations about where to place them are expected by late July.
The Terre Haute facility, which houses 2,948 inmates in its medium-
and high-security facilities, could be a viable option, experts say.
It is the only federal penitentiary with a Death Row, where convicted
Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh was held for about two years before his execution in 2001.
The complex also houses a Communications Management Unit, an isolated
area where inmates such as terrorists and sex offenders are housed away from the general prison population. There, they are
able to participate in education and work programs, but virtually all of their communication is monitored.
The Communications Management Unit has held lower-profile prisoners
such as Randall Royer, a defendant prosecuted as part of the "Virginia jihad" case in Alexandria, Va., and five members of
a group of Yemeni natives called the Lackawanna Six, who attended an al-Qaida training camp.
The existence of the unit adds to the likelihood that Terre Haute
could be a venue for Guantanamo detainees, said Mark Hamm, a criminology professor at Indiana State University who has studied
Islamic extremism in Western prisons and has been visiting the Terre Haute facility since 1967.
He said the city's lack of activism about the prison or the inmates
there also could make it a more likely candidate.
Terre Haute leaders say relations between the city and the correctional
complex have long been cordial. There was little stir about putting in a Death Row. And in 2003, when plans for a new prison
that would double the number of inmates were announced, locals embraced it and later lobbied for a third facility, largely
because of the jobs the prisons bring.
The overall embrace hasn't stopped some concerned residents from
trying to rally others. City Councilman Turk Roman said he thinks most people are silent about the issue because they don't
think the detainees will really be moved there. Roman is trying to convince them otherwise.
"They don't think it's going to happen," he said. "But if there's
a chance, then I'm concerned."
Federal Prison Industries: The Myths,
Successes, and Challenges of One of America’s Most Successful Government Programs
Federal Prison Industries, Incorporated (FPI) was created over 60 years
ago. Throughout our history, we have served Federal Government customers by producing competitively-priced, high-quality goods
and services and backing them up with outstanding customer service and quality guarantees. But our immediate customers are
only part of the picture: by keeping inmates positively focused and productively occupied, and by teaching them how to read,
write, and work, we have also served the public by significantly increasing the security of Federal prisons and providing
inmates with opportunities to become productive, law-abiding citizens after release.
FPI is a true success story;
a Government program that has exceeded the expectations of its creators, cost taxpayers almost nothing, and benefited millions
As I reflect on my early tenure as Assistant Director for the Industries, Education, and Vocational
Training Division and Chief Operating Officer of FPI, I am particularly proud to be associated with two groups: my predecessors
as Assistant Director, and the current staff of the Corporation. The former—comprised of such outstanding leaders and
visionaries as James Bennett, A. H. Conner, Fred Wilkinson, Preston Smith, Wade Markley, Olin Minton, J. T. Willingham, John
“J. J.” Clark, Loy Hayes, Sr., Dave Jelinek, Jerry Farkas, and Rick Seiter—established the culture, standards,
and tradition for FPI. The latter—through their continued professionalism and dedication—carry our reputation
for excellence into the future.
Although FPI has faced and overcome numerous challenges during its history, it will
probably face its greatest challenges in the years to come. Increasing Federal inmate populations,declining Federal budgets,
and a rapidly changing Federal marketplace will require FPI to constantly improve operations to maintain its viability.
myths abound about FPI, perhaps because it is a relatively unknown Federal program. As we enter our 7th decade of operation,
I want to address these myths as a way of both correcting misconceptions and sharing with our constituents and critics alike
the basis for our immense pride in our accomplishments on behalf of the Nation.
Myth #1: Federal
Prison Industries has an unfair competitive advantage over the private sector.
This, the most inaccurate of all FPI
myths, apparently is based on a misunderstanding of the restrictions under which FPI operates. It is true that FPI pays its
inmates less than a private sector worker would get paid for carrying out similar assignments. Yet any competitive advantage
that accrues from this is more than offset by the lower average productivity of inmates and the security inefficiencies associated
with employing inmates.
In addition, due to concerns expressed by both labor and private business at the time FPI
was formed, Federal statute provides for significant constraints on FPI’s activities, which further diminish any competitive
advantage. Specifically, FPI is required by law to:
Employ as many inmates as reasonably possible.
Concentrate on manufacturing products that are labor intensive.
Provide the maximum opportunity for inmates to acquire marketable skills for use upon release.
Diversify production as much as possible to minimize competition with private industry and labor, and to reduce the burden
on any one industry.
Avoid taking more than a reasonable share of the Federal market for any specific product.
Sell products only to the Federal Government, meeting the quality and delivery requirements of the Federal customer, and
not exceeding current market prices.
Comply with Federal procurement regulations.
Operate in an economically self-sustaining manner.
In addition to these constraints, it should be noted
that the average Federal inmate has an 8th grade education, is 37 years old, is serving a l0-year sentence for a drug related
offense, and has never held a steady job. According to a recent study by an independent firm, the overall productivity rate
of an inmate with a background like this is approximately l/4 that of a civilian worker. Finally, the costs associated with
civilian supervision of inmate workers and numerous measures necessary to maintain the security of the prison add substantially
to the cost of production.
It is hard to see how one could genuinely interpret the cumulative effect of these limitations
as a “competitive advantage.” In fact, Robert Q. Millan, a former member of FPI’s Board of Directors, provided
the following assessment of FPI’s situation: “As a former banker, I am well aware of the operations of a variety
of businesses. In private sector business, it is of primary importance to eliminate all inefficiencies possible in order to
maximize profit. I could not recommend to my former bank, or any bank, that it make loans to a business that was controlled
by the conflicting mandates and had the inherent inefficiencies that handicap FPI.”
FPI has no competitive advantage.
In fact, quite the opposite is true. That it has succeeded in spite of the obstacles it faces is a tribute to the support
of our customers and the dedication of our staff.
Myth #2: FPI enjoys a “superpreference”
for sale of its goods to Federal agencies.
The term “superpreference” is an inflammatory term coined by
FPI critics to engender sympathy from certain quarters. The facts are much less provocative. Federal procurement law requires
that Federal agencies purchase products from FPI, provided that FPI can meet the purchaser’s quality, price, and delivery
requirements. This “mandatory source” (the proper term) designation merely requires that Federal agencies contact
FPI to see if its products will meet their needs. If so, procurement from FPI is required. If not, FPI is obliged to grant
a waiver, allowing the Federal customer to purchase the product on the commercial market. The waiver process has worked very
effectively: in fiscal year 1995, FPI granted 80 percent of all waivers requested, thereby directing $383 million in Federal
Government purchases to the private sector.
FPI’s mandatory source provides a steady flow of work and reduces
the requirement for FPI to expend large amounts of money on advertising and marketing. If such expenses had to be incurred,
sales levels and market share would have to be expanded, which would have an adverse impact on private sector companies in
the same businesses as FPI.
Myth #3: Inmates in FPI are not being taught marketable skills.
teaches inmates the most marketable skill of all: how to work. No matter the job, successful employees must first possess
a basic work ethic: dependability, reliability, the ability to work as a member of a team, the willingness to take direction
from a supervisor, and pride in a job well done.
In addition, for many FPI jobs, the trade skills learned are directly
transferable to the private sector. Examples include welding, soldering, printing, data entry, computer scanning and digitizing,
furniture manufacture and refinishing, upholstery, metal fabrication, apparel manufacturing, and vehicle repair. Many of these
programs are linked to a State certified vocational or apprenticeship program.
In order to advance beyond the entry
level, inmates are also required to complete their GED. This is considered the minimum level of functional literacy required
to be successful in today’s society. Requiring such an achievement enhances an inmate’s employment prospects.
A recently completed research study on post release employment of Federal inmates found that inmates who work in FPI
are better behaved while in prison, are more likely to be employed—at higher wages—after release, and are significantly
less likely to re-offend than inmates who did not participate in FPI.
Thus, FPI benefits both individual inmates and
society as a whole by increasing the odds that ex-offenders can become law-abiding, tax-paying citizens. This is one of FPI’s
most noteworthy successes.
Myth #4: FPI has an adverse impact on the private sector.
assertion is based on a narrow, illusory definition of the private sector. There is no dispute that if FPI did not exist,
certain private sector companies would sell more products to the Federal Government. There is, however, more to the situation
than meets the eye.
An independent market study recently concluded that FPI’s sales represent less than 2 percent
of the Federal Government’s annual purchases. Further, when Federal procurements go down, private sector companies can
increase the ratio of sales to the commercial market. By law, FPI cannot.
Virtually every FPI sales dollar is returned
to the private sector. In fiscal year 1995, FPI had net sales of $459 million. Of this, $257 million was spent on raw material
purchases from private sector vendors. Another $87 million was spent on wages and benefits for FPI staff, which in turn were
spent in the private sector. Of the pay earned by inmates, 50 percent was paid to the public in the form of fines, restitution,
and child support. Even items the inmates bought in the commissary (using their FPI earnings) were initially purchased from
the private sector vendors.
These specific dollar illustrations do not take into account the intangible value FPI
adds to the local community by contributing to safe, secure management of correctional facilities. More than one mayor has
said that the combination of direct FPI expenditures in the local economy and the aforementioned intangible value on property
values and community safety result in an overall net gain, even taking into account any direct effect on businesses in the
same product line as FPI.
The plain truth is that the overall effect of FPI on private sector businesses is negligible.
If FPI did not exist, the increased appropriations required to provide alternative programs for inmates, offset by increases
in private sector income, would result in a net increased cost to the taxpayers.
A History of Success
For six decades, FPI has been self-sufficient, funding operations through the sale of its products to the Federal
Government, rather than Government appropriations. In fact, over the years, FPI has returned over $80 million to the U.S.
During its history, FPI has provided valuable products and services to the Federal Government. Soldiers
have had their uniforms, bedding, shoes, dorm furniture, helmets, flak vests, and other items made by FPI. Likewise, FPI has
provided veterans hospitals with pajamas, towels, sheets, and mattresses. FPI has also produced missile cables (including
those used on the Patriot missiles during the Gulf War), wiring harnesses for jets and tanks, radio mounts, battery boxes,
postal bags, weather instrument parachutes, office furniture, and signs. Services provided to the Government include rebuilding
vehicles, remanufacturing electric motors, entering data, and printing Government documents (such as this one). . All these
products and services have been provided in response to the needs of our Federal Government customers and in service to the
Nation. It is a legacy of which we are very proud. And it is the reason why FPI is one of the country’s most successful
The Future Challenge
The challenge for FPI is to remain financially
self-sufficient while providing enough work for an increasing number of inmates. The Federal inmate population has tripled
over the last 10 years, and it is projected to continue growing for the foreseeable future. In order for the Bureau of Prisons
to successfully manage the increased number of inmates, FPI will have to create jobs for these additional inmates.
influence on the successful management of Federal prisons is no secret; it has been a matter of public policy for over six
decades. Policymakers have long recognized that increasing the number of incarcerated individuals means increasing the number
of prisons and, in turn, increasing the size of FPI in order to improve both the management of the prisons and an inmate’s
chances of success upon release. As we begin the next decade, continued support of Federal Prison Industries will pay important
dividends for the country.
Gregg: Fed prison in NH comes at the right time
Associated Press - June 5, 2009 5:15 AM ET
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg says at a time
when many residents are worried about their job security or are looking for jobs, the need for workers at the Berlin Federal
Prison couldn't have come at a better time.
This week, federal Bureau of Prisons officials held forums to discuss new business and career
opportunities that will be created once construction of the prison is done in fall 2010.
Gregg says the prison will provide hundreds of good-paying jobs, in addition to related employment
opportunities and economic activity in the North Country.
It's estimated the prison will provide about 320 full-time jobs.
The family of Jose Rivera, the prison guard stabbed to death by two inmates,
has filed a lawsuit against the Bureau of Prisons alleging poor management and unsafe working conditions contributed to his
The wrongful death lawsuit was filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court in Fresno by attorney Mark Peacock.
filing the lawsuit, Peacock pointed to a report from the U.S. Department of justice that stated the U.S. Penitentiary in Atwater
was found to have insufficient discipline, problems finding and retaining employees, and allegations that management ignored
repeated warnings of possible violence. The report was issued in April.
The Bureau of Prisons would not comment on
the report because it is part of an internal investigation.
Rivera was killed in June of last year. Two inmates, Jose
Cabrera Sablan and James Leon Guerrero were arrested and charged with first-degree murder. The U.S. Attorney General's Office
has authorized the prosecution to seek the death penalty for the two men.
The report states that Rivera was stabbed
more than 38 times by a homemade shank made from dishwasher parts. During the attack Rivera tried to escape but was held down
by Guerrero, while Sablan stabbed him repeatedly. One of the stab wounds pierced Rivera's heart, according to the autopsy
Both of the inmates were serving life sentences according to the Bureau of Prisons. They had been transferred
to the Atwater facility from a prison in Guam, which is a U.S. territory, because of their violent behavior.
43, was sent to the Guam corrections facility for an armed robbery. He was implicated along with three other inmates in the
1987 murder of Corrections Officer Douglas Mashburn, but was never brought up on any charges. Guerrero was sent to the Atwater
facility one day before the fatal attack.
Sablan, 40, was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Julienne Sablan
and the attempted murder of a 14-year-old girl. He was transferred to the U.S. Penitentiary in Atwater in July 2005.
federal grand jury returned an indictment charging the two men with first degree murder, first degree murder of a federal
correctional officer and murder by a federal prisoner serving a life sentence.
Since the murder Guerrero has been
held at a federal prison near Seattle and Sablan in a Dublin facility.
Rivera had been working at the Atwater prison
for 10 months. Prior to that he served four years in the U.S. Navy and did two tours of duty in Iraq. His death sparked a
grassroots effort to push for safety reforms within the U.S. Penitentiary system.
The national union representing federal
correctional officers have stated that Rivera's death was a preventable tragedy and have been calling for safety reforms that
include stab-resistant vests, protective equipment like Tasers and batons, and staffing increases. At the time of his death,
Rivera was the lone guard watching over 100 inmates.
Congressman Dennis Cardoza has introduced the "Jose Rivera Correctional
Officer Protection Act," which would provide $20 million in funding to the Bureau of Prisons for purchasing the stab-resistant
Report notes prison security weaknesses
WASHINGTON, June 8 (UPI) -- A U.S. government inquiry into the most recent death of a federal
correctional officer points up officers' concerns that inmates have become more violent.
Jose Rivera's June 20 killing, captured by surveillance cameras inside the high security federal penitentiary at Atwater,
Calif., offered a somber look at the U.S. prison system, a Federal Bureau of Prisons report obtained by USA Today indicated.
During the attack, Rivera's colleagues were unable to reach him because of a locked door.
"It was like Rivera was caught in a bear trap," said Mark Peacock, the officer's attorney. "If the staff was able to respond
with adequate force, Rivera might have survived the attack."
Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman Traci Billingsley said there is "a sense that assaults (on staff) are more severe," while
not commenting directly on the Rivera report, USA Today reported Monday.
Bryan Lowry, federal prison employees association president, said overcrowded conditions endangers prison officers and
staffers. Bureau of Prison records indicate the overall system is 36 percent over capacity and 48 percent over capacity in
high-security units, USA Today reported.
Bureau statistics indicate serious assaults on staffers increased slightly from 2007 to 2008, 72 incidents to 82, while
less serious attacks -- such as pushing or shoving -- rose from 1,281 to 1,522 in the year-over-year comparison. Inmate slayings
were up, from 12 in 2007 to 15 in 2008, the report indicated.
WASHINGTON — A government inquiry into the most recent fatal assault of a federal correctional
officer details multiple security breakdowns and underscores a fear among federal officials who say inmates have grown increasingly
violent in their dealings with prison staff.
Jose Rivera's June 20 killing, captured by surveillance cameras inside the high security U.S. Penitentiary
Atwater in California, provides a chilling view into the U.S. prison system where weapons are plentiful and some violent inmates
are allowed to "sleep off" bouts of drunkenness fueled by homemade cocktails, according to a Federal
Bureau of Prisons (BOP) report obtained by USA TODAY.
During the attack, Rivera, a 22-year-old Iraq
war veteran, struggled for his life while a locked door blocked several of his colleagues from responding.
"It was like Rivera was caught in a bear trap," said Mark Peacock, the officer's attorney. "If the staff
was able to respond with adequate force, Rivera might have survived the attack."
Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman Traci Billingsley, who declined to comment on the Rivera report, says there
is "a sense that assaults (on staff) are more severe." Following the Rivera killing, authorities recovered 175 weapons in
the facility, the report states.
Bryan Lowry, president of the federal prison employees association, says overcrowding is endangering prison
officers and staffers. According to BOP records, the system is 36% over capacity and 48% over capacity in high security units.
In the federal system, which manages 204,327 inmates, serious assaults to staffers increased slightly
in 2008, from 72 to 82, according to BOP records. Less serious attacks (pushing, shoving) increased, from 1,281 in 2007 to
1,522 in 2008. Inmate slayings were up, from 12 in 2007 to 15 in 2008.
At the time of the Rivera attack, according to the report, he was assigned to lockdown a high security
unit for the afternoon inmate count when he was allegedly slashed in the torso by convicted murderer Jose Sablan. The officer
was wounded before he could secure Sablan and James Guerrero, a convicted armed robber, in their cell. Both inmates, according
to the report, appeared to be intoxicated.
As surveillance cameras rolled, Rivera attempted to escape and activated his electronic body alarm to
summon help. He was allegedly tackled by Guerrero, who pinned the officer down while Sablan continued to stab Rivera with
a makeshift ice pick. Rivera was stabbed at least 17 times before an officer arrived with a key to the door.
"This delay to get responding staff into the unit could have been reduced," the report concluded.
The day before the attack, one prison guard raised questions about whether Guerrero, known as a "disruptive,"
could be housed safely in the same unit with Sablan, according to the FBI's
report of its interview with the guard.
"Going to put him (Guerrero) with another killer," the guard told a colleague. "Okay if that's what you
are going to do. We'll be lucky if he doesn't kill somebody before the night is out."
Union concerned over staffing numbers at Lewisburg
By Coni Marie Sheridan
Friday, June 5, 2009
WATSONTOWN — Staffing issues are a prime concern for union members at the United States Penitentiary,
Lewisburg, especially with security level changes that have been ongoing this year.
According to Bryan Lowry, president
of the Council of Prison Locals 33, American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) AFL-CIO, Arkansas, Lewisburg has gone
from a maximum security prison to a special management unit (SMU) and can now be classified as a super maximum security prison
housing the “worst of the worst” inmates.
“These types of inmates are some of the most violent, aggressive,
combatant inmates,” said Lowry. “If you get to a super-max, you are the most dangerous criminals.”
SMU is a four-phase program in which inmates can
eventually be released back into the general population. During phases one and two, the inmates are locked down
for 23 hours a day, with one hour of recreation time. Although there are usually two to three correctional officers assigned
to a unit — or cell block — because of escorting inmates to recreation, appointments and other areas, there is
often only one guard left to watch over the entire unit, which can sometimes consist of three floors.
not only irresponsible, but probably very dangerous,” said Lowry of the current operating procedures. “It was
not well thought out and it’s only a matter of time, because of lack of staff and equipment, before someone is seriously
or fatally injured, whether it be staff or inmate.”
Lowry explained that the current staff-to-inmate ratio is
five-to-one. This includes all prison staff, not just correctional officers. He also noted that correction officers are not
armed. They have a radio with a body alarm — a device that allows an officer to be located if he is in a situation where
he cannot call for help — and handcuffs.
“I’d like the agency to consider supplying pepper spray
canisters to staff. It will buy them some time with non-lethal means to contain inmates,” he said.
issue at Lewisburg is the augmentation of support staff into corrections positions.
“If they are short-handed,
they bring in clerical staff to do the job of the correction officers,” explained Keith Hill, Third District National
vice president, AFGE AFL-CIO, Pittston. “That is not their function. I have a problem with it.”
added that with the “worst of the worst” being housed at Lewisburg, staffing levels must increase and that both
he and Lowry will be speaking with senators and congressmen about these issues.
“USP Lewisburg is making every
other prison in the country safer. What is being done to make USP Lewisburg safer?” he asked.
According to Tony
Liesenfeld, secretary-treasurer of the local union, in order to run the SMU safely and effectively, they would need a “compliment
of 350 (additional) officers.”
“If the current trend continues, we will lose staff, sooner than later,”
He explained that many veteran officers are choosing to retire early or as soon as they become eligible,
because even if they have to work a different job in the community, “they know they’re coming home at night.”
reiterated, “If things don’t change here, there will be some severe injuries. Not only to the inmates, but to
Union fears for penitentiary guards
By Wayne Laepple
WATSONTOWN — The U.S. Penitentiary
at Lewisburg will need almost 100 more corrections officers once it is fully converted to a special management unit, housing
the worst of the worst in the penal system, union officials said Thursday.
The 265 corrections officers at Lewisburg are under greater stress as the prison is being changed
to the super-max facility, said Bryan Lowry, president of Council of Prison Locals 33, American Federation of Government Employees,
and Keith J. Hill, third district national vice president.
The officers at Lewisburg are at greater risk of injury and even death because SMU inmates are “the
most violent, aggressive and assaultive inmates in the system,” Lowry said.
While the type of inmate incarcerated at Lewisburg will change, the number of inmates will fluctuate,
as they currently do, between 1,200 and 1,500.
Federal inmates with severe behavioral problems will be sent to Lewisburg. They will be in phased
confinement, where improved behavior will gain privileges, and continued poor behavior will result in more restrictions.
23 hours a day in cell
Most SMU inmates are confined to their cells 23 hours a day, and it is common for four or five corrections
officers to be in charge of more than 100 prisoners. Even though inmates are confined, they must still be transported to exercise
areas, to showers, to medical appointments and visitations. The inmates must be handcuffed and shackled before leaving their
cells, and when officers are transporting prisoners, there are times when a single officer is charge of up to 40 inmates on
several floors on a cell block, the union said.
Officers are unarmed, carrying only a walkie-talkie with a body alarm button, Lowry said.
“It’s irresponsible and dangerous with the current staffing levels,” Lowry said,
adding that he believes it’s only a matter of time until an inmate or an officer is seriously injured or killed.
Prison officials have been unable to stop prisoners from fashioning weapons, Lowry alleged, and
because about 40 percent of the inmates in the SMU are serving life sentences, they have little to lose by attacking one another
or corrections officers.
“It was a real eye-opener,” Hill said of his tour of the Lewisburg facility. “I
talked to 40 or 50 officers today, and they are all concerned about staffing levels.”
At least 350 guards needed
Tony Leisenfeld, secretary-treasurer of Local 148 at Lewisburg, said the union believes at least
350 corrections officers are needed to efficiently oversee the 1,200 to 1,500 inmates inside the wall.
“Remember, the inmates do not want to come here,” Leisenfeld said. “We are doing
12 to 15 cell extractions every week, moving inmates out who do not want to move.”
Each cell extraction requires four to six officers, plus another with a video camera, and a lieutenant.
When an extraction is necessary, Leisenfeld said, officers from other cell blocks must assist, leaving those cellblocks short-staffed.
Pam Parker, a teacher in the prison, said she is sometimes required to assist officers transporting
or monitoring prisoners.
“I don’t know the inmates,” she said. “I don’t which one may belong
to a gang that is at war with another gang.”
Prison staff need to know more about the inmates, Parker said. Additional training has been requested,
but prison management has not responded to the request, Parker said.
The federal Bureau of Prisons, which operates the Lewisburg facility, counts personnel such as teachers,
clerks, secretaries, cooks and maintenance workers as staff, even though they do not have the training of corrections officers
and work 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Union cites regional incident
Danny Bensinger, president of Local 148, said the union would like to see a minimum of 25 additional
officers initially added, and when the entire prison is converted at an SMU, up to 350 officers available.
An incident at Harrisburg International Airport a few weeks ago involved a contingent of inmates
who were en route to Lewisburg, Bensinger said. State police and FBI agents were called in to help quell that disturbance,
Officers are often forced to work overtime to help put down disturbances, adding to their stress
levels, and they may be disciplined by managers for incidents over which they have no control, Bensinger said.
Veteran officers are retiring as soon as they are able, fearful of staying on, Leisenfeld said.
Because moving expenses are not paid for line officers, few transfer to Lewisburg from other prisons.
“We can’t follow policy due to lack of staff,” Leisenfeld said.
Inmates In The Bus Aisle
Greyhound riders are speaking out about a little known practice by the government. Federal prisoners
often ride right beside you on the bus without you or the driver even knowing it.
Our investigative team found out this practice has been on the books for more
than six years. But with light shown on it some riders feel their right to know has been violated.
But we found a frequent rider here in Chattanooga who disagrees. Ina Ruth Bailey
has actually ridden beside a federal prisoner. Bailey says last year she met a woman who only had four months left on her
sentence. That inmate was moving from a Detroit federal prison to a work release program in Nashville.
Bailey struck up a conversation with her and other inmates who were in normal clothing
and not restrained. The Bureau of Prisons says it screens the inmates for this type of transportation and says they don't
"pose a significant risk." Reports show about 25,000 per year are moved this way. The B-O-P says most are on their way to
halfway houses and about 6% are going to minimum security.
Bailey, for one has no problem with it. We asked her if riding beside a convicted
felon bothered her. Bailey said, " No, not at all. They was nice,intelligent, they wanted to talk. They wanted to know
what's been going on in the world. I told them nothing much but the same thing; trouble, ha ha."
Jury Convicts Corrections Officer of Bribe-Taking
John E. Murphy, Acting U.S. Attorney announced that this afternoon in Midland, a federal jury convicted
21-year-old Jacob C. Guzman of Pecos, Texas, a former prison guard at the Reeves County Detention Center, of accepting bribes,
attempted destruction of evidence and attempted smuggling of contraband to federal prisoners.
Guzman faces up to 15 years in federal prison when he is sentenced on August 29, 2009.
Testimony at trial established that on two occasions in 2008, Tennessee relatives of a Reeves County
Detention Center inmate wire transferred a total of $600 to Guzman in Pecos, in exchange for Guzman’s agreement to smuggle
cell phones, tobacco, and mp3 players into the facility, where they were illicitly disseminated to inmates. Federal rules
prohibited all of those items inside the facility.
In 2008, the Reeves County Detention Center exclusively housed federal inmates pursuant to a contract
with the Bureau of Prisons.
On September 10, 2008, Guzman was discovered to have several pouches of tobacco safety-pinned inside
his pants when he entered the facility to begin a shift. When the contraband was discovered, Guzman fled to the men’s
room, and attempted to flush the tobacco down the toilet before it could be seized as evidence by security personnel.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Justice—Office
of Inspector General and security officials with the Reeves County Detention Center. Assistant United States Attorneys John
S. Klassen and Sandy Stewart are prosecuting this case on behalf of the Government.
Progress at New Prison
Berlin, New Hampshire - June 3, 2009
Educators at the White Mountains Community College in Berlin met with state and federal officials Wednesday to talk about
job training. The college will likely play a key role in hiring process for corrections employees.
"We basically design customized training in the area or any business that needs some set of skills that their employees
may not have or we respond to requests from other agencies," says Frank Clulow of White Mountains Community College.
The Federal prison is located just north of downtown Berlin. Our cameras were not allowed to videotape construction, but
officials say it is about 70 percent complete. When the prison opens in the Fall of 2010 over 300 employees will work within
the concrete walls.
"We don't just hire correctional officers. We hire secretaries, and teachers, and cook foremen and warehouse workers supervisors
as well. We are much like a small city behind the security of a fence," explains Cathi Litcher of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.
Berlin's largest employer used to be the pulp plant downtown but that closed several year ago. New Hampshire's North Country
has been bleeding jobs-- mostly due to the failing paper industry. Coos County has the highest employment rate in the entire
"We will likely need to recruit outside the immediate area, but whoever takes those jobs will leave other jobs that will
need to be backfilled so we are hopeful that this will give employment in the area that is needed at a very competitive wage,"
says Mark Belanger of N.H. Works.
A public forum is being held Wednesday evening to talk about all of the jobs coming to the area. A community desperately
in need of them.
Others who worked at Marianna prison recycling center seek to join suit
By Lance Griffin
people are attempting to join a lawsuit filed last year by inmates and workers at the Federal Correctional Institution in
Marianna, Fla., claiming they were exposed to toxic elements while working there at a computer recycling center.
Twenty-six current and former inmates and workers filed the initial suit in March of 2008 against the U.S. Department of
Justice, Bureau of Prisons and UNICOR Federal Prison Industries, claiming they were not adequately protected against poisonous
material contained inside computers that were demolished or disassembled at the prison for the purpose of recycling the parts.
U.S. District Judge Richard Smoak issued a stay in the case in November, pending his ruling on the defendants’ motions
to dismiss the suit. The defendants claim, among other arguments, that the plaintiffs did not exhaust all administrative remedies
for their claims before filing the lawsuit. The plaintiffs dispute the claim.
Since then, six additional people have filed motions in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Florida, claiming
they worked at the recycling center and were exposed to harmful chemicals and elements. Smoak has not ruled on their motions
to join the suit.
Should the case proceed, it will likely involve thousands of documents and scores of depositions and other interviews.
The suit also involves other computer recycling businesses at other federal prisons. The defendants claim it could take a
year or more just to collect discovery in the case.
UNICOR began a first-of-its-kind computer recycling operation near the Marianna prison in 1994. The operation used inmates
from the nearby prison camp to remove truckloads of obsolete computers each day, break them down and retrieve parts that can
be reused or resold, including central processing units and cathode ray tubes.
The plaintiffs claim the officials knew or should have known that the recycling process caused the workers to be exposed
to lead, cadmium and other toxic elements. The lawsuit alleges that many workers have become ill with skin lesions, difficulty
breathing and anxiety, and some have died. The complaint also alleges others were possibly exposed when allowed to visit the
recycling facility to purchase refurbished computers at a discount price.
Family sues feds over Calif prison guard's death
By TRACIE CONE Associated Press Writer
FRESNO, Calif.—The family of a 22-year-old guard killed at a Central California
prison sued the Bureau of Prisons Tuesday claiming poor management of the facility created dangerous conditions.
The lawyer for the family of Jose Rivera also disclosed a U.S. Department of Justice report that said the U.S. Penitentiary
Atwater had lax discipline, trouble luring employees and management that ignored warnings of potential violence and weaponry.
"It's a clear indictment of how totally messed up the Bureau of Prisons is," said attorney Mark Peacock after filing the
wrongful death lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Fresno.
A prison spokeswoman declined to comment directly on the report, dated April 2009, because she said it's part of an internal
"I can tell you we have made several changes and improvements to our high-security facilities," said Traci Billingsley.
Rivera was stabbed to death a year ago as the nearest prison employees, without a key to his unit, watched helplessly and
security cameras rolled.
James Leon Guerrero and Joseph Cabrera Sablan, both serving life sentences and each having histories of violence against
guards at the time of the stabbing, are charged with first-degree murder and, if convicted, could face the death penalty.
The criminal trial is set for next year.
Attorneys for the inmates did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
The report called the prison, which opened in
2000, a "hard to fill duty station." One-third of staff had fewer than
three years' experience, and 80 percent fewer than 10. Rivera, 22, was an Iraq war veteran with less than a year at the prison.
After the stabbing, guards demanded changes, including protective vests, and a new warden was assigned to the prison.
Billingsley also said the prison now moves the most aggressive inmates from general populations to three special prisons
designed to handle them, and exerts more control over inmates' movements.
Guerrero was transferred to Atwater as a disciplinary problem the day before the stabbing, the report said.
Sablan and Guerrero originally were assigned to the same cell, but Guerrero told the operations lieutenant that as "alpha"
males, they were incompatible together, according to the report.
The next day they were among a group of Asians/Pacific Islanders drinking intoxicants, the report said.
At 3:20 p.m. on June 20, 2008, Rivera began to prepare for the afternoon head count. Inmates loitered instead of returning
to their cells, the report said, including Guerrero and Sablan. When Rivera ordered them in, the assault occurred.
Rivera, unarmed and wounded, ran down a stairwell and toward a locked door, activating his emergency call button. The report
said Guerrero tackled him while Sablan stabbed.
Rivera was stabbed 10 times before employees could unlock the door and 28 times before anyone stopped the assault, the
Sablan told the FBI he was drunk. After the killing neither was given a blood-alcohol test, now standard procedure.
Eight months before the killing, inmates had taken a guard hostage using a knife made from dishwasher parts, complaining
that prison gangs charged bribes for cell assignments. Prison officials took no action, so inmates considered it "an accepted
practice," the report said.
The report also said that homemade alcohol, made from sugary colas, is funneled into empty soda bottles and sold by prisoners
in the commissary. Intoxicated inmates were allowed to "sleep it off" rather than face disciplinary proceedings.
Following Rivera's death, a shakedown of the prison turned up 175 weapons after an initial search of eight of 12 housing
units, the report said. Investigators believed the shiv used to kill Rivera was made from parts from the Food Service Department's
dishwasher, something previously warned about, the report said.
"There were no patdowns, no screenings of inmates who worked around the machine," Peacock said. "The federal system really
needs to get its stuff together. If it wasn't Rivera, it would have been somebody else."
Family of slain correctional officer sues prison leaders
By CORINNE REILLY
The mother of slain U.S. Penitentiary Atwater correctional officer Jose Rivera has filed a lawsuit
against the penitentiary's former warden and two top officials with the Federal Bureau of Prisons, claiming they bear responsibility
for Rivera's 2008 murder.
Rivera, a 22-year-old Navy veteran, was stabbed to death by two inmates at USP Atwater last June. The
lawsuit, filed in federal court Tuesday, alleges that the penitentiary and the federal agency that oversees it, the Bureau
of Prisons, "willingly and knowingly participated in the creation of dangerous conditions that resulted in (Rivera's) death."
Specifically, Rivera's family claims the defendants assigned the two inmates suspected of killing Rivera
to a lower level of custody than warranted by their known violent histories.
It names five defendants in all: Dennis Smith, who was USP Atwater's warden at the time of Rivera's
death; Harley Lappin, the director of the Bureau of Prisons; Robert McFadden, director of the bureau's western region; and
two other USP Atwater employees, Marie Orozco and Jesse Estrada, who are believed to have decided where to house one of the
inmates suspected in the murder.
The lawsuit seeks punitive and compensatory damages but did not specify an amount.
"The defendants ... were each aware that the assailants were likely to assault and kill (Rivera), other
correctional staff and/or other inmates," the suit states.
A spokesman for USP Atwater, the penitentiary's new warden, Hector Rios Jr., and a spokeswoman for
the Bureau of Prisons each declined to comment on the lawsuit. A spokeswoman at Federal Correctional Institution Pekin, a
medium-security prison in Illinois where Smith was transferred after Rivera's death, said Smith also had no comment.
Lappin and McFadden didn't return phone calls Wednesday. Attempts to reach Orozco and Estrada weren't
Last week, Rios told Sun-Star Executive Editor Mike Tharp during a tour of the prison that his main
responsibility was "safety -- of the staff, of the inmates, of the community."
At a recent employee picnic, Rios recalled, many children of USP Atwater corrections officers showed up. "My job is to
make sure those parents return to those kids," he said last week.
Mark Peacock, a Newport Beach-based attorney representing the Riveras, said the family filed the suit in hopes of bringing
change to the federal prison system.
"Officer Rivera's death highlights the complete and utter breakdown of the prison's management in protecting their employees,"
Peacock said. "This can't be allowed to continue."
Rivera died June 20, 2008, inside a housing unit at USP Atwater, a high-security prison for men located just outside Merced.
The two inmates accused of killing him, James Leon Guerrero and Joseph Cabrera Sablan, were charged in August with first-degree
murder and could face the death penalty if they're convicted. They have pleaded not guilty and are tentatively scheduled for
trial in September 2010.
A Department of Justice investigation report said Sablan used an ice pick-like weapon -- probably made from parts of a
cafeteria dishwasher -- to stab Rivera at least 28 times while Guerrero held him down. Both inmates were drunk at the time,
the report said.
In line with USP Atwater policy, Rivera was alone with more than 100 prisoners when the assault took place. He was wearing
no protective equipment and carrying no weapons. He had worked at the penitentiary less than a year.
The Department of Justice report said alcohol was widely available to inmates inside USP Atwater and that previous internal
investigation had warned of earlier uses of dishwasher parts to assault correctional officers there.
The report also said no one else working near Rivera had keys to the housing unit where he was killed, which prevented
the earliest responders from reaching him. They instead stood helplessly by, waiting for keys while Rivera's attackers continued
to stab him.
It said both of the inmates had histories of assaulting correctional officers, though only one of them, Sablan, had been
designated a high-risk prisoner. The report also said Guerrero was living in a cell to which he wasn't assigned.
Peacock said FBI investigation reports, which haven't been made public but that Peacock has reviewed, include evidence
that Orozco and Estrada understood the danger in placing Guerrero in the prison's general population instead of assigning
him to a more secure housing unit.
"The FBI report says they basically predicted that this inmate might kill someone," Peacock said. "But they just put him
right in there with everybody else. And no one bothered to warn Officer Rivera."
Guerrero was transferred to USP Atwater the day before Rivera's murder because of discipline problems.
Among the improvements Rivera's family hopes to see are increased staffing levels, a better key management system and policy
changes to allow federal correctional officers to carry nonlethal weapons at work, such as Tasers or pepper spray.
National union leaders said they've been calling for such changes since before Rivera's death. They said there have been
some improvements at USP Atwater since his murder, but that many of the problems it exposed still exist at Atwater and other
Besides removing Warden Smith from USP Atwater, the Bureau of Prisons has begun supplying stab-resistant vests to employees
who want them in the wake of Rivera's death.
A spokesman for USP Atwater, Jesse Gonzalez, said the penitentiary has also placed more restrictions on inmate movement
and boosted staffing.
Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, said in an interview Wednesday that he has "incredible confidence" in Rios, USP Atwater's
"I'm still very concerned about what's going on inside our federal prisons, but I do think we're moving in the right direction,"
The third of five children, Rivera lived in Chowchilla and graduated from Le Grand High School in 2003. He enlisted in
the U.S. Navy shortly after and served four years in the military, including two tours in Iraq.
USP Atwater opened in 2001 and housed roughly 1,100 prisoners at the time of Rivera's death. Systemwide, the Federal Bureau
of Prisons includes 115 institutions and more than 200,000 inmates.
n the shadow of the majestic Rocky Mountains, you can find one of the grimmest places
The federal government's only super-maximum security prison houses a veritable rogue's gallery
of the most dangerous criminals in the world, who spend their days and nights sealed in sound-proof concrete cells. Most on
the outside never come in; most of the inmates never come out.
"Nobody has ever escaped," President Obama said last month, referring to the Florence, Colo.,
fortress dubbed the "Alcatraz of the Rockies." It's here that Obama has suggested sending some of the inmates at the infamous
Guantanamo Bay detention center.
On Jan. 22, Obama issued an executive order, calling for the closure of the military facility