Congress To Tackle Prison Staffing Woes

If an appropriations bill for the Department of Justice is passed as is, federal corrections employees will have a little more job security.

A House resolution set to distribute funds for 2008 would bar privatization of work performed by Bureau of Prisons (BOP) employees, meaning that existing correctional officer positions could not be replaced by employees with a private company. Congress is also looking at plans regarding safety and staffing levels in federal correctional facilities.HR 3093, the appropriation bill, would not only offer federal correction officers protection against privatization, but it would also allow employees to appeal any work lost to contractors in public-private job competitions, giving workers the same appeals rights as contractors.

The resolution would also mandate that the BOP report to the House Appropriations Committee on staffing levels in federal facilities, and which positions have not been filled.

Last week, members of the American Federation of Government Employees joined state Rep. Buffie McFadyen (D-Pueblo West) in front of the capitol building to assail staffing levels at the Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado — where it was alleged that staffing levels had dropped to such a low point that tensions were growing between correction officers and the inmate population, along with entire units being left unsupervised for up to 24 hour periods.

The House has also allotted 10 million to residential substance abuse treatment for state prisoners throughout the nation, along with 5 million set aside to improve state and local law enforcement intelligence capabilities with anti-terrorism and civil rights training.

The appropriations bill is currently awaiting action in the Senate.

Erin Rosa was born in Spain and raised in Colorado Springs. She is a freelance writer currently living in Denver. Rosa's work has been featured in a variety of news outlets including the Huffington Post, Democracy Now!, and the Rocky Mountain Chronicle, an alternative-weekly in Northern Colorado where she worked as a columnist covering the state legislature. Rosa has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting on lobbying and woman's health issues. She was also tapped with a rare honorable mention award by the Newspaper Guild-CWA's David S. Barr Award in 2008--only the second such honor conferred in its nine-year history--for her investigative series covering the federal government's Supermax prison in the state. Rosa covers the labor community, corrections, immigration and government transparency matters. She can be reached at