Home » Weber Among Representatives Introducing Bipartisan Bill to Address Prison Understaffing

Weber Among Representatives Introducing Bipartisan Bill to Address Prison Understaffing

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Washington, D.C. – On Monday, U.S. Reps. Randy Weber (R-TX), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Judy Chu (D-CA), Karen Bass (D-CA), and Jay Obernolte (R-CA) introduced the bipartisan introduced the bipartisan Prison Staffing Reform Act to direct the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to conduct a review of understaffing, devise a 3-year plan to fill vacancies, and implement the plan as well as submit yearly progress reports to Congress. The plan must encompass the effects of understaffing on workplace safety, the processing of inmate casework, and the availability of medical care and educational programs for inmates. This would ensure BOP addresses the pervasive understaffing that has had dire consequences for staff and inmates alike.

“The crisis of chronic understaffing at the federal Bureau of Prisons is a major problem that needs to be addressed immediately,” said Rep. Weber. “Doing so will lead to better and safer conditions for our correctional officers and inmates.  As members of the BOP Reform Caucus, we are championing solutions to address problems that have plagued the BOP and our correctional officers, and our bipartisan bill is a step in the right direction.”

  “Staffing shortages in the Bureau of Prisons directly undermine the federal prison system’s ability to foster both accountability and rehabilitation. Our prison system cannot operate effectively if a dearth of staff is making it unsafe. Currently, incarcerated people are too worried about their own safety to have the time and energy it takes to make changes in their skillset or character. Ongoing staffing shortages at the BOP are also making it nearly impossible to connect individuals with prison programming that is proven to improve public safety. The Prison Staffing Reform Act is a strong step towards Congress fulfilling the promise it made to the American people in the First Step Act and supporting our hard-working federal corrections employees,” said 15 presidents representing the Western Region of the Bureau of Prison Locals.

“Staffing shortages in the Bureau of Prisons directly undermine the federal prison system’s ability to foster both accountability and rehabilitation,” said Jeremiah Mosteller, Senior Policy Analyst at Americans for Prosperity. “Our prison system cannot operate effectively if a dearth of staff is making it unsafe. Currently, incarcerated people are too worried about their own safety to have the time and energy it takes to make changes in their skillset or character. Ongoing staffing shortages at the BOP are also making it nearly impossible to connect individuals with prison programming that is proven to improve public safety. The Prison Staffing Reform Act is a strong step towards Congress fulfilling the promise it made to the American people in the First Step Act and supporting our hard-working federal corrections employees.” 

The Prison Staffing Reform Act would require BOP to assess the far-reaching impacts of chronic understaffing on the following metrics, as well as implement a plan to fill vacancies and advance associated priorities for the agency:

·  The availability of medical care for inmates, including mental health, substance misuse, and maternal health services.

·  The processing of inmates’ applications for compassionate release, home confinement, and time credits.

·  The availability of teachers, therapists, and support staff aimed at reducing recidivism.

·  Adequate protections for staff and inmates against violence and sexual misconduct.

·  The availability of sanitary and efficient food services.

·  Prison security, including the detection of contraband and installation of cameras.

·  Workplace conditions that may jeopardize employees’ mental health.

·  Wasteful costs incurred by BOP associated with augmentation and overtime.

The BOP must act on a 3-year plan to address understaffing and remedy these related, long-standing challenges.

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