According to the Louisiana congressional delegation and members of the Bureau of Prison union, the first federal prison to see an epidemic of COVID-19 in March of 2020 is currently critically understaffed.
In March of 2020, the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) Oakdale in Louisiana was the site of a severe COVID-19 outbreak. The situation was so dire that the inspector general of the Justice Department criticized the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) for its failure to segregate inmates at the facility during the first few weeks of the pandemic.
A letter was sent to the Bureau of Prisons on behalf of the Louisiana congressional delegation, which was chaired by Republican Sen. John Kennedy. The letter requested that the Bureau of Prisons address the staffing concerns at the prison.
According to the written statement from the congressional delegation, “FCC Oakdale faces unsustainably low staffing levels that is nearing crisis.” Because of these job openings, the FCC Oakdale has no choice but to rely on mandated overtime in order to fulfill the fundamental safety requirements of the mission.
They have expressed their worry regarding the personnel levels and have requested information regarding what the Bureau is doing to resolve this issue.
Because of the staffing situation at FCC Oakdale, many veteran staff members have been obliged to aggressively pursue possibilities for advancement or transfer to other federal prison facilities and agencies, or even retire. This is understandable.
The Bureau of Prisons has confirmed to ABC News that it has received the letter from the congressional committee and is currently reviewing it. According to the BOP’s statement, “We have no additional information to provide at this time.”
The national BOP union has brought to light the fact that staffing issues in federal prisons are not a new concern by pointing out that they have existed for quite some time.
ABC News has been informed by the local union president at FCC Oakdale. Because FCC Oakdale was the first facility to see a severe outbreak of COVID-19, staff members put in extra hours to ensure that the facility was adequately covered.
“During that time, as you are aware, the staff worked an extreme amount of overtime to provide security coverage to the inmates at outside hospitals while they were receiving treatment for COVID,” Ronald Morris, President of AFGE Local 1007, told ABC News. “This was done to provide security coverage to the inmates who were receiving treatment for COVID.” “This was a very difficult mission in terms of staffing due to the fact that there were inmates at the outside hospital, attempts were made to replace the post at the institution through augmentation, and problems were encountered with staff members being absent due to COVID. Two years have passed, and it would appear that the crew has not been able to heal from the trauma. “We are still operating with a staffing deficit,” he stated.