FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
April 22, 2011

Jason Fornicola
(202) 639-6448

Union for Federal Prison Officers Fights for Issuance of Protective Equipment

GAO report studies potential enhancement of officer safety

WASHINGTON—The Council of Prison Locals (CPL) of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) today restated its belief that protective equipment would enhance correctional officer safety in the Bureau of Prisons (BOP).

The recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report entitled “Bureau of Prisons: Evaluating the Impact of Protective Equipment Could Help Enhance Officer Safety” recommended BOP management assess whether protective equipment would improve officer safety, something CPL has long advocated.

“We fully support the issuance of protective equipment to our BOP correctional staff,” said CPL President Bryan Lowry. “Correctional officers are unarmed, violence is increasing and the inmate population has increased at an average rate of 6,000 new assignments each year during the last decade. Protective equipment such as batons and pepper spray would greatly enhance officer safety.”

For years, AFGE and its Council of Prison Locals have fought not only for protective equipment but also for additional staffing and funding at BOP. The need for additional resources can be seen with the countless violent outbreaks occurring at BOP facilities across the country. A correctional officer can be responsible for supervising as many as 150 to 350 inmates at once and are unarmed inside the facility. Low staffing levels and a more aggressive inmate population have led to a spike in violence – something AFGE says cannot continue.

“We need to keep our workers safe,” said AFGE National President John Gage. “Low staffing levels combined with a rising inmate population results in a dangerous work environment for staff,” said Gage. “Providing protective equipment would greatly enhance worker safety and help officers defend themselves during violent outbreaks.”

The GAO report also found 14 state Departments of Corrections that allow officers to carry protective equipment such as pepper spray while on duty.

Specifically, AFGE has called on BOP and Congress to:

  • Issue stab-resistant vests and non-lethal weaponry such as batons and pepper spray to correctional officers – Assaults on officers with homemade weapons have spiked in recent years.
  • Fully fund BOP to remedy the serious correctional officer understaffing and prison inmate overcrowding problems that are plaguing the federal prison system.
  • Continue the Federal Prison Industries (FPI) work program – FPI, also known as UNICOR, 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 18,972 prison inmates 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 UNICOR factories must maintain a record of good behavior and must have completed high school or be making steady progress toward a General Education Degree.

For more information, please visit www.cpl33.info.

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The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 670,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia. For the latest AFGE news and information, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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