The Union is working on the Shut Down and Possible Article 25 Violations by the Agency. There will be the 1st Union Meeting announced Shortly now that the Union had it's Audit by CPL National Representative Brandy Moore.
The Town of Mendota Put at Risk- FCI Mendota Losing staff.
Staffing cuts at Bureau of Prisons fuel safety concerns at
By Shea Johnson
Posted Jan 29, 2018 at 4:52 PM Updated Jan 29, 2018 at 5:35 PM
VICTORVILLE — Across-the-board staffing cuts in the Federal Bureau of Prisons has elevated concerns about safety — the prospect it will worsen both inside facility walls and in the surrounding community — among union officials who represent workers at the correctional complex here.
Word that the Bureau would immediately be reducing currently vacant positions by 11.95 percent nationally, delivered during a video teleconference Thursday by Mary Mitchell, the Bureau’s Western regional director, only amplified worries that inadequate staffing at the Federal Correctional Complex is cultivating an increasingly precarious work environment.
“From the inside, it’s quite scary to think of the possibilities that could happen,” John Kostelnik, the FCC Victorville union president, said in an interview Monday.
The compound has been disturbed by multiple serious assaults, attempted escapes, riots and disturbances in “recent times,” according to Kostelnik, who became the union leader a year ago.
Although officials there have regularly insisted, when detailing a series of incidents to reporters in the past year, that the public has never been in danger, Kostelnik said the community and prison employees were at risk and that lowering staffing levels only worsens the situation and also hampers inmate rehabilitation efforts.
Kostelnik had already raised issues about inadequate staffing and on-site resources to Rep. Paul Cook, leading the Congressman in September to make an official inquiry with the Bureau seeking a trove of financial data.
Kostelnik said the nearly 12-percent cutbacks have eliminated 120 positions that FCC Victorville was in the process of hiring. Had those positions been filled, staffing levels would have been better, although still under-served, he added.
On top of those cuts, last year’s proposed Department of Justice budget for the Bureau called for trimming 14.4 percent of staff across the U.S., or about 6,000 employees, which if enacted would equate to this complex losing about 35 current on-the-job workers.
A “significant chunk” of these losses — about 1,800 nationally — are correctional officer posts, Kostelnik said, which only serves to exacerbate existing unease about guard-to-inmate ratios.
The Victorville complex currently maintains about 400 officers overseeing nearly 2,700 inmates between four facilities on the compound, including the high-security United States Penitentiary, according to Kostelnik and Bureau data.
Divided between six different shifts, the number of available guards at any given time decreases dramatically. Typically, there is one guard to oversee 125 inmates in a unit, according to Kostelnik, while two others rove the compound and two are supervising lieutenants.
A spokesperson for the Bureau on Monday said the elimination of the several thousand currently vacant positions was part of an effort by the Justice Department and Congress to “rightsize” Bureau staffing levels amid a significant reduction of inmate population over the past four years.
“The elimination of these positions will not result in any staff members being displaced or any reduction in force,” the spokesperson said in an email, “and the BOP does not expect this to impact institutional operations or its overall ability to maintain a safe environment for inmates and staff.”
“Likewise, we believe that reducing authorized positions,” they continued, “will not have a negative impact on public safety.”
On the idea that the proposed Justice Department budget could decrease more staffing, the spokesperson said only, if enacted, “the BOP will work with DOJ to effect such changes.”
Kostelnik said repercussions have already emerged: The only tower manned during graveyard shifts of seven around the compound will now be untenanted, leaving no eyes in the sky during late-night and early-morning periods.
Inmate visiting hours have also been reduced three days to two and rehabilitation programs and classes have been trimmed due to reported budget restraints.
Kostelnik said he plans to meet next week with elected officials while in Washington D.C., including Cook, to articulate his concerns. The Congressman was not available to comment Monday.
“It’s so frustrating. Something bad is going to happen here,” Kostelnik concluded. “This is going to break us.”
Shea Johnson can be reached at 760-955-5368 or SJohnson@VVDailyPress.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DP_Shea.