Bureau of Prisons union leader asks Biden 'to prioritize and address' staffing

The union says shortages in federal prisons have reached a "critical level."

February 2, 2024, 10:39 AM

The head of the Bureau of Prisons union has written to President Joe Biden asking him to seriously consider the impact staffing shortages are having on the nation's federal prisons.

"The current staffing shortage within our agency have reached a critical level, placing an unsustainable burden on our existing workforce, and compromising the safety and security of both staff and inmates," president of the Council of Prison Locals 33, Brandy Moore-White wrote to Biden in a letter obtained by ABC News.

Moore-White represents nearly 30,000 federal corrections employees.

BOP has lost 9,000 staff members since 2016, which "has raised serious concerns about our ability to effectively carry out our responsibilities," the letter said.

"These shortages have resulted in increased workloads, mandatory overtime, a practice called augmentation or reassignment (where non-correctional officers are assigned to perform the duties of a correctional officer and vacate their positions), and heightened stress levels for our staff, ultimately jeopardizing the well-being of all involved," it said.

The seal for the Federal Bureau of Prisons is seen at Federal Bureau of Prisons headquarters in Washington, Oct. 24, 2022.
Carolyn Kaster/AP, FILE

Moore-White says in addition to the staffing levels, pay "insufficiency" has become a "significant concern" for officers.

"The current pay structure within the Bureau is significantly lower than that of other Federal Law Enforcement Agencies, including the US Marshals, Immigration and Customs (ICE) and Border Patrol," she said.

She said the pay scale doesn't compare to state and local law enforcement jobs or jobs in the private sector.

This concern has been confirmed by the director of the Bureau of Prisons, who said one of the main competitors for BOP recruitment is often times the local big box store.

"I urge you to prioritize and address these pressing issues within the Federal Bureau of Prisons," Moore-White wrote to Biden. "By investing in our personnel, you will not only improve the working conditions of thousands of public servants, but also enhance the integrity and effectiveness of our nation's federal correctional system."

In an interview done for the CBS News program "60 Minutes," BOP Director Collette Peters said she is aware of the staffing issues in the federal prison system and is working to address it.

"We respect and acknowledge the significant contributions of the Council of Prison Locals 33," the Bureau of Prisons said to ABC News in a statement. "While we will decline to comment on the letter, as a general matter, FBOP has been transparent that staffing across the agency remains a challenge, as the FBOP is faced with the same worker shortage experienced by employers throughout the country."

"The work to address these challenges is ongoing and includes a robust national recruitment strategy with the assistance of an external contract consultant," BOP said. "Prior year data and analytics show a significant increase in public engagement and an increase in applicant numbers in priority regions."

The White House referred ABC News to the Justice Department.

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