FEBRUARY 12, 2023
"Inside the Federal Prison System"
with those who stand guard








Our guests today from the Federal Correctional Institution at Herlong

Josh Easley is from Northern CA. He spent 6 years in the Air Force after high school and joined the Bureau of Prisons in 2010. He is the current Union Vice President at FCI Herlong.   Lanny Carey is from the San Joaquin Valley. He spent 4 years in the Marine Corps and joined the Bureau of Prisons in 2001.s
Bureau Of Prisons Is Overworking Its Most Critical Staff Positions During First Step Act Implementation
Walter Pavlo
I write and consult on federal criminal law and criminal justice.
Mar 31, 2022,05:27pm EDT
The federal Bureau of Prisons has faced staffing shortages for years, which has led to increases in overtime, low morale and overworked staff. Nearly one-third of federal correctional officer jobs in the United States are vacant, forcing prisons to use cooks, teachers, nurses and other workers to oversee prisoners through a process known as augmentation. While there is a shortage of corrections officers, there is also a shortage of other professionals at a time when the BOP is trying to implement the First Step Act. One of the primary professionals in the BOP to manage this process is the case manager.
For federal prisoners, the most important person in managing their lives is a case manager. Case managers develop, evaluate, and analyze program needs for prisoners and, more importantly for those incarcerated, develop release plans for their return to society. With the First Step Act, many prisoners in institutions have realized First Step Act Earned Credits that shorten prison terms for participating in meaningful activities and for having a lower risk of recidivism. For some, it could mean up to a year off of their sentence. BOP case managers across the country are now scrambling because thousands of inmates who are scheduled to be released in the upcoming months. However, those same case managers are seeing a surge in case load work while they continue to be augmented due to correction officer staff shortages. In addition, some of the staff shortages are in the area of case management itself.
The BOP put out a memo in 2019 providing guidance for its institutions on case load management. That memo, written by then-Assistant Director of Correctional Programs Division Michael Carvajal (named director in February 2020 and announced his retirement in January 2022 ... still director until another is named), stated as a prisoner to staff ratio for key positions: Unit Manager 300:1, Case Manager 150:1, Counselor 200:1 and Unit Secretary 300:1.
In an interview with Eric Speirs, President of AFGE Local 501, he discussed the particular pressures faced by those at FDC Miami, a facility with a prisoner population of nearly 1,500. According to Speirs, at FDC Miami there are 2 Unit Managers (750:1), 5 Case Managers (300:1), 5 Counselors (300:1) and 1 Unit Secretary (1,500:1). The BOP has a policy on unit case management where it states, “Caseloads for Case Managers and Counselors will be reviewed by Management on a regular basis in an effort to minimize the negative impact that large caseloads have on staff.” That is from the BOP’s own Program Statement that is dated August 2017, more than a year before the First Step Act was even signed into law. These same positions are now responsible for implementation of the First Step Act in addition to their other responsibilities.


Bureau of Prisons:  Opportunities Exist to Better Analyze Staffing Data and Improve Employee Wellness Programs GAO-21-123Published: Feb 24, 2021. Publicly Released: Feb 24, 2021.

US Bureau of Prisons chief pledges hiring reforms amid staffing crisis
By Michael R. Sisak, The Associated Press and Michael Balsamo, The Associated Press
 Oct 25, 2022
FILE - The Federal Correctional Institution is shown in Dublin, Calif., July 20, 2006. A former California prison chaplain who pleaded guilty to forcing an inmate to have sex with him is facing sentencing in a federal court. James Theodore Highhouse is alleged to have abused several women at the Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin, California. (AP Photo/Ben Margot, File)WASHINGTON (AP) — The outsider brought in to reform the ailing federal Bureau of Prisons pledged Monday to hold accountable any employees who sexually assault inmates, reform archaic hiring practices and bring new transparency to an agency that has long been a haven of secrecy and coverups.
Colette Peters detailed her vision in a wide-ranging interview with The Associated Press, her first since becoming director nearly three months ago.
She said she wants to reorient the agency’s recruiting and hiring practices to find candidates who want to “change hearts and minds” and end systemic abuse and corruption. She would not rule out closing problematic prisons, though there are no current plans to do so.
Colette Peters detailed her vision in a wide-ranging interview with The Associated Press, her first since becoming director nearly three months ago.
She said she wants to reorient the agency’s recruiting and hiring practices to find candidates who want to “change hearts and minds” and end systemic abuse and corruption. She would not rule out closing problematic prisons, though there are no current plans to do so.
Skeptics within the federal prison system’s rank and file have derided her approach as “hug a thug.” Peters didn’t mind that but offered a different term: “chocolate hearts.”
Peters said her ideal prison worker is as interested in preparing inmates for returning to society after their sentences as they are in keeping order while those inmates are still locked within the prison walls.
“Our job, as you’ve heard me say before, is not to make good inmates. It’s to make good neighbors,” Peters said. “They’re coming back to our communities, and so we need to hire the right people on the front end with that kind of thinking to help us do that.”
It’s a departure from the agency’s previous recruiting model that stressed the law enforcement aspects of the job. Peters’ approach is similar to how prisons are run in Norway, where the focus behind bars is more on rehabilitation and promoting a humane approach.
But Peters acknowledges major hurdles to reforming the Justice Department’s largest agency, a behemoth of more than 30,000 employees, 158,000 inmates and an annual budget of about $8 billion.
Peters has visited three federal prisons so far as director.
Two have been sources of the agency’s biggest controversies: a federal women’s prison in Dublin, California, where the warden and several other employees have been charged with sexually abusing inmates, and the federal prison in Sheridan, Oregon, where inmates say they were denied showers during a hunger strike and roughed up by a special tactical team.
On Tuesday she’s scheduled to visit U.S. Penitentiary Atlanta with one of the agency’s most vocal critics in Congress, Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Ga. Ossoff’s committee has been investigating the agency and clashed with her predecessor, Michael Carvajal.
Peters in the interview pointedly acknowledged the agency is facing a massive staffing crisis that is at the center of its myriad issues, which Carvajal had refused to do.
Low staffing has hampered responses to emergencies and slowed the implementation of the First Step Act, a criminal justice overhaul championed by Democrats and Republicans in Congress.
“We are looking for people who want to change hearts and minds, who want to make good neighbors and safety and security is a top priority,” Peters said. “And so that is a paradigm shift, and I hope it’s one that recruits the right people.”
Peters said the staffing crisis, exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, has only worsened as the agency looks for new ways to recruit officers and retain its staff. A 2021 AP investigation found nearly one-third of federal correctional officer positions were vacant, forcing prisons to use cooks, teachers, nurses and other workers to guard inmates.
Now, the Bureau of Prisons finds itself not only competing with other law enforcement agencies and corporate employers, but with fast food restaurants offering signing bonuses. In some cities, the biggest hurdle has been huge cost of living burdens. And in rural communities, the agency has struggled to find many qualified applicants.
Peters also vowed to have zero tolerance for any employee who abuses their position or sexually abuses inmates in their care.

“We need to continue to hold people accountable, let people see and understand that if you engage in this type of egregious activity, you’re going to prison,” she said.
A year ago, the Justice Department took the bold step of closing one of its more troubled facilities: the crumbling Manhattan jail where financier Jeffrey Epstein killed himself in 2019.

Peters says the agency has yet to determine if the jail, the Metropolitan Correctional Center, will reopen — a task that would require a pricey structural overhaul. She also isn’t ruling out closing more prisons as repair bills pile up and inmate populations shift.

“We will always be analyzing the infrastructure,” Peters said. “We have billions of dollars in back-loaded infrastructure repairs that need to happen at all of our institutions. At some point there’s a return on investment where there’s just the cost of repairing them are too high.”

AP reporting has revealed rampant sexual abuse and other criminal conduct by staff, dozens of escapes, deaths and severe staffing shortages that have hampered responses to emergencies.

“I have said in this room I need to hear the good, the bad and the ugly,” Peters said. “We cannot have any surprises. We have to know what is happening inside our agency so we can help.”

The Bureau of Prisons has also started to “spot check” security cameras at prisons across the U.S. to ensure officers are conducting rounds to check on inmates held in segregated housing units, a major controversy after two officers who were supposed to be guarding Jeffrey Epstein falsified documents claiming to have checked on him while they were really sleeping and shopping online.

U.S. Senators demand answers after BOP investigation
An Associated Press investigation has drawn the attention of the Senate Judiciary Committee into the repeated promotions of a high-ranking official who has admitted to beating inmates
Dec 13, 2022
By Michael R. Sisak and Michael Balsamo
Associated Press 
WASHINGTON — The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said he plans to question the director of the federal Bureau of Prisons this week about an Associated Press investigation that found the agency has repeatedly promoted and continues to stand by a high-ranking official who beat Black inmates in the 1990s.

“I am very concerned about the allegations in this article and whether BOP will address abuses, prioritize safety, and improve their flawed approach to misconduct investigations,” Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., tweeted in the wake of AP’s story chronicling Thomas Ray Hinkle’s rise to deputy western regional director.

Prison workers and union officials, angered by the AP's investigation into Hinkle and the agency’s response defending him, picketed Monday outside a Bureau of Prisons Western Regional Office in Stockton, California. (Aaron Kehoe)At the same time, Durbin and a group of Senators are demanding answers from the Justice Department about the subject of another AP investigation — the federal prison system’s handling of rampant staff misconduct, including staff-on-inmate sexual abuse and whistleblower retaliation.

Durbin on Monday joined Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla, both California Democrats, in sending a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland and Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco seeking additional information and imploring the Justice Department to take immediate action to root out staff misconduct. Grassley is the Judiciary Committee's top Republican.

The Justice Department formed a working group in July to evaluate its handling of staff sexual abuse after the warden and several other workers at a federal women’s prison in Dublin, California, were arrested for sexually abusing inmates. An AP investigation revealed that the allegations stemmed from a toxic culture of abuse and coverups at the Bay Area lockup. The working group issued a report with its findings in November.
Bureau of Prisons Director Colette Peters is expected to face questions on both topics when she testifies Tuesday before the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. The panel, chaired by Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., has been conducting its own investigation into sexual abuse of female inmates in federal prisons. Peters will meet with Durbin separately.

Prison workers and union officials, angered by the AP's investigation into Hinkle and the agency’s response defending him, picketed Monday outside a Bureau of Prisons Western Regional Office in Stockton, California. They called on the agency to fire Hinkle and his boss, Regional Director Melissa Rios.

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., echoed that sentiment. She reported a hostile encounter with Hinkle in February while on a site visit to investigate staff sexual abuse at the troubled federal women’s prison in Dublin.

“The details revealed here are deeply disturbing,” Speier said in a tweet linking to the AP article. “If only half of what is reported is true, Hinkle should be terminated immediately. I will be following up with BOP for answers.”

The AP’s story, published Friday, revealed how the Bureau of Prisons repeatedly promoted Hinkle despite numerous red flags, rewarding him again and again over a three-decade career while others who assaulted inmates lost their jobs and went to prison.
Hinkle, responding to questions from the AP, acknowledged he beat inmates but said he regrets that behavior and now speaks openly about it “to teach others how to avoid making the same mistakes.”

Peters, who started as Bureau of Prisons director in August, told the AP she believes Hinkle is a changed man and a model employee. At the same time, she said, she's committed to working with the Justice Department and Congress to root out staff misconduct.

“Mr. Hinkle has openly acknowledged his past mistakes, gone through the employee discipline program, sought professional help and reframed his experiences as learning opportunities for others,” Peters said. “Today, I am confident he has grown into an effective supervisor for our agency.”

Federal prisons employees and union officials protesting Monday outside the regional office where Hinkle works said they were troubled by what they see as a two-tiered system of justice in the Bureau of Prisons.

“I’m very mad. You’re supposed to hold everybody accountable. Nobody is above the law," Dublin union president Ed Canales said. “But apparently, he can change? What about officers and staff members that were wrongfully terminated on lesser charges? Or were actually terminated on the same charges? Can they be exonerated? Can they come back?”