Rally Against Prison Overcrowding - KALB-TV News Channel 5 & CBS 2

Rally Against Prison Overcrowding

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© People on the steps of the courthouse rallying. © People on the steps of the courthouse rallying.

ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB News Channel 5) - Union members representing the correctional workers at the Federal Correctional Complex in Pollock are holding an information picket and rally Friday to address unsafe working conditions in facilities nationwide.

The sidewalk outside the U.S. Federal Courthouse in Alexandria was crowded today with picketing prison guards. It's the sound of prison guards fed up with unsafe working conditions. 

 

"It was bad before," says Richard Logan, who has worked as a prison guard in Pollock for 13 years. "Now the game seems to be elevated. The inmates are coming, they're getting more dangerous. More violent."

Union members of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 1034 held and informational picket and rally Friday in front of U.S. Federal Courthouse in downtown Alexandria. 

They represent the correctional officers who work in the Federal Corrections Complex (FCC) in Pollock. And they say, three attacks on guards by inmates this year alone have them calling on the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) for a change - specifically, a "buddy system" so that no officer is caught without backup.

"They're cowards in nature," Logan says. "They wait for you to turn your back, they wait for you to be alone. And that's what they're waiting for. If you're never alone, then that would stop a lot of assaults in and of itself." 

Overcrowding and understaffing in federal prisons isn't just a problem in Central Louisiana, but the numbers from Pollock are extreme. The BOP reports that the penitentiary was built to house 960 inmates - and currently, there are 1,490 inmates living within its gates. 

While more staff is a priority, the AFGE is also asking for new and improved stab-proof vests, and a can of pepper spray for every staff member.  

"Pepper spray has been proven at Pollock to stop a staff member from being killed," says Local 1034 President Brian Richmond.

Union reps say they are in talks with FCC Pollock and the federal BOP. The guards say, talking is a start, but they won't give up the fight until they feel safe once again.

"We don't want to wait for an officer to die before we get help," says Richard Logan. "We're asking for it now."

In a statement, FCC Pollock says the BOP prides itself on productive relations with bargaining units. They say system-wide, they're operating at 36 percent above rated capacity, while staffing levels are at 90 percent. 

The statement also says the safety and security of the staff continues to be the highest priority at the BOP.

 

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