Reader’s view: Federal furloughs could create dangerous prisonsNobody thinks sequestration is a smart way to run the federal government — and it’s particularly bad for federal law enforcement.
Nobody thinks sequestration is a smart way to run the federal government — and it’s particularly bad for federal law enforcement.
Employees of the Bureau of Prisons were told to take 14 furlough days between April 21 and Sept. 30.
You should know there were two Bureau of Prison employees who recently were murdered, one on Feb. 25 and the other Feb. 26. About a week later an employee apparently committed suicide due, it seemed, to the stress of working in a prison. He was the control center officer when the officer was killed Feb. 25.
Typically, overnight and on weekends, there’s a ratio of one staff member to 75 to 90 inmates in a prison, and staff members are locked in the units with the inmates from about 10 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. They’re locked in with murderers, rapists and drug dealers: about 125 to 160 inmates in a unit with only two or three people who can respond to an emergency.
Correctional officers make up about 40 percent of a prison work force. Losing 14 days per officer could cripple the operations of the prisons in doing their normal functions. Inmates would be locked down in their units, not working their normal jobs. An idle inmate is a dangerous inmate and much more likely to act out and create problems for staff or other inmates.
In November 1987 the Bureau of Prisons had riots at the United States penitentiary in Atlanta; at the United States penitentiary in Pollock, La.; and at the federal correctional institution in Talladega, Ala. The bureau lost control of the institutions. This happened after the federal government announced repatriating Cuban detainees. At the time the Federal Bureau of Prisons also was being underfunded without enough staff to properly maintain or control the institutions.
The writer is a counselor at the federal correctional institution in Sandstone, Minn.