FCC Pollock experiencing staffing shortage

In Pollock, a shortage among correctional officers at the federal correctional complex has put a strain on the facility and staff members across the campus.
Published: Apr. 5, 2022 at 6:48 PM CDT
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POLLOCK, La. (KALB) - After years of employee cutbacks and pandemic challenges, FCC Pollock is one among many federal prisons across the U.S. facing a staffing crisis.

“Pollock has a history of dangerous things happening, and that’s why we have to staff this facility to the max,” said Thomas Moore, legislative coordinator for the AFGE Local 1034.

FCC Pollock is comprised of three facilities, ranging from medium to maximum security, housing a total of 2,700 inmates. For all three campuses, there are currently 283 correctional officers split between three shifts, each having 60 or fewer officers clocked in at a time. For example, at the USP campus, the morning watch has 28 officers in charge of more than 1,200 inmates. That’s a 44-1 inmate to officer ratio. At the FCI campus, the morning watch has 10 officers in charge of more than 1,500 inmates, which is a 151-1 inmate to officer ratio.

As a result of the low staffing levels, officers are being mandated to work double shifts of 16 hours three to four times a week.

“It doesn’t matter what your excuse is,” said Anthony Koeppel with AFGE Local 1034. “So, it’s either, I’m gonna miss out on my child’s birthday, which we’ve been scheduling for, or I’m going to face a proposal of three days suspension without pay, and those are choices our officers are having to make.”

According to a staffing report for the pay period of March 13 - March 26, custody staff positions are only staffed at about 84%. According to Moore, the turnover rate for correctional services for the 2021 calendar year was nearly 12%.

“We’ve got officers out there with 10, 13 or more years that are actually resigning right now because they need more time with their family at home,” said Koeppel.

Union representatives have pushed for Congressional help in getting the Bureau of Prisons to grant incentives to recruit and retain. A 10% retention can be approved by the Bureau of Prison’s director, but a 25% request must be approved by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

“Give us some results,” said Moore. “We can’t sustain long, very much longer. It’s just gonna get worse.”

News Channel 5 reached out to members of the Central Louisiana delegation to find out how they have been working to get help in Washington D.C.

“Multiple members of my staff have had multiple conversations with representatives of the guards in this Pollock issue,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy. “And we’ll take it once more back up to the Bureau of Prisons, and we’ll work with the rest of the delegation to make sure that happens.”

“Congress has supplied the Bureau of Prisons with hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars in COVID-19 relief legislation intended to mitigate staffing shortages at our federal prisons,” said District 4 Congressman Mike Johnson. “Since then, staffing shortages have only gotten worse. The Department of Justice owes the American people a complete accounting of how the agency allocated its share of those funds. Instead of BOP allowing our prisons to hire more people, it is mandating overtime for our already overworked correctional officers. This is not safe, it is not right, and we demand answers.”

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