Friday, October 19, 2012

Overcrowding and staff shortages at prisons, many of them rural, raise safety concerns

Overcrowding in federal prisons threatens the safety of staff and inmates, according to a new Government Accountability Office report on the Bureau of Prisons. Many prisons are in rural areas, employing many local residents. The report says BOP officials report an increased use of double and triple bunking, waiting lists for education and drug treatment programs, and increased inmate-to-staff ratios. Those factors lead to increased inmate misconduct, and increased safety risks.

Inmate population is growing faster than the BOP's capacity, Joe Davidson of The Washington Post reports. Prison population grew by 9.5 percent from 2006 to 2011, but the BOP's capacity only grew by 7 percent. "Nearly all BOP facilities had fewer correctional staff on board than needed," GAO said in the report. BOP staff shortages were in excess of 3,200. The inmate-to-staff ratio has decreased. "Fewer officers is not a strategy for success," Davidson writes. "The consequences can be real and bloody." Understaffing leads to an increased in inmate-on-worker assaults, with almost 1,700 assault on staff happening in 2010, according to GAO. (Read more)

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