The American Federation of Government Employees thanks the Biden administration for granting raises for union members at eight federal prisons, including FCI, Herlong. Photo submitted

Biden administration approves higher pay for all staff at eight federal prisons, including FCI Herlong

The American Federation of Government Employees thanks the Biden administration for authorizing 25 percent retention bonuses for correctional officers and staff at eight federal correctional facilities overseen by the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

AFGE and the union’s Council of Prison Locals have been calling on the administration to approve the additional pay to help address dangerous understaffing at federal prisons.

“Thanks to this action by the Biden administration, these prisons will be better equipped to retain their hard-working employees and recruit new officers and staff to help address persistent understaffing,” AFGE National President Everett Kelley said.

An employee at the FCI, Herlong warden’s office said she was not authorized to make a statement, and the warden had not responded by press time. Other attempts to contact the public information officer and a union official at FCI, Herlong were unsuccessful.

Nationally, there is a 40 percent shortage of federal correctional officers compared to what Congress has budgeted for the agency. Staffing overall has fallen more than 20 percent over the past seven years.

“Our correctional officers and support staff are overworked, underpaid and putting themselves in harms’ way every time they go to work. These retention bonuses will encourage more of our employees to stay on the job and will help the agency’s recruitment efforts,” AFGE Council 33 National President Brandy Moore White said.

The eight correctional centers that have been authorized to pay the 25 percent recruitment bonuses are: Federal Correctional Institute Herlong, California; Federal Correctional Institution Dublin, California; Metropolitan Correctional Center San Diego, California; Metropolitan Detention Center Los Angeles, California; United States Penitentiary Atwater, California; Federal Correctional Complex Florence, Colorado; Federal Correctional Institution Sheridan, Oregon; and Federal Detention Center SeaTac, Washington.

The Office of Personnel Management approved the Justice Department’s request to pay the 25 percent retention bonuses late last month. The agency currently is reviewing additional requests to authorize the bonuses at other correctional facilities.

AFGE Local 1169 in Florence, Colorado, began advocating for the retention bonuses in the fall of 2021, picking up the support of the entire congressional delegation that represents correctional officers and staff at the facility.

“FCC Florence is one of the most understaffed prisons in the country, and we desperately need additional support to recruit and retain sufficient staff,” AFGE Local 1169 President John Butkovich said. “The higher pay approved by the Biden administration will help us keep our dedicated staff in place and give us a needed edge when it comes to filling vacant positions.”

There have been multiple inmate homicides and serious assaults in just the past year at the prison complex, which houses four facilities: the minimum-security Federal Prison Camp, the medium-security Federal Correctional Institution, the high-security United States Penitentiary, and the supermax Administrative Maximum Facility.