ICYMI: Congressman Fred Keller launches bipartisan Bureau of Prisons Reform Caucus
Washington, D.C. – In case you missed it, Congressman Fred Keller’s announcement of the bipartisan Bureau of Prisons Reform Caucus received widespread coverage across Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District.
Penn Live, Fox 56, WNEP, Williamsport Sun-Gazette, The Daily Item, and The Standard-Journal each detailed the importance of the BOP Reform Caucus in bringing much needed accountability and transparency to an agency that has struggled on both accounts for years.
Penn live explained how the creation of the BOP Reform Caucus is a critical step forward for greater oversight of our nation’s federal prison system:
“With a $7 billion budget, more than 36,000 employees and 172,000 inmates, the BOP is a massive government agency, yet its leadership in Washington lacks adequate congressional oversight,” [Keller] said.
The president of Local 148 of the American Federation of Government Employees at the Lewisburg prison called the creation of the caucus a “monumental step in the right direction.”
“Today marks the beginning of a coordinated effort to address longstanding issues like dangerous staffing practices that jeopardize the safety of staff and security of our correctional institutions.”
Fox 56 highlighted the urgency of additional BOP oversight as local prisons experience COVID-19 outbreaks:
More than 40 coronavirus cases have been confirmed at the U.S. Penitentiary in Lewisburg.
“True oversight and accountability is the only way to protect the dedicated men and women, correctional officers and employees of the federal bureau of prisons," said [National Council of Prison Locals 33 President Shane] Fausey.
WNEP emphasized the concerted bipartisan effort to hold BOP accountable:
"We have an organized group working together, both sides of the aisle, to bring about the transparency that is so much needed to make sure that the frontline workers, the corrections workers, will have their members come to Congress advocating and fighting together," said Rep. Fred Keller.
The Daily Item covered Union County Commissioner Preston Boop’s point about the far-reaching impact of the BOP’s lack of oversight:
Boop said he felt Union County’s collective concerns were ignored by BOP when the inmate transfers and staff deployments were enacted. Later focusing on the Wolf administration, he said more Lewisburg penitentiary staffers live outside than inside Union County and questioned the logic of impacting local decisions on public school operations based on contained outbreaks inside USP-Lewisburg…
“BOP’s actions are influencing how our schools reopen and how our community responds to this virus,” Keller said during a press conference.
Williamsport Sun-Gazette highlighted that many of the concerns raised by corrections officers were ignored:
Unfortunately, too many decisions made by the Bureau of Prisons adversely impact the federal lockups…
“The frustration for us in Union County is it didn’t matter about our concerns to keep our people safe,” [Boop] said.
The Standard Journal reported that the BOP’s inconsistent decision making has made the job of corrections officers more dangerous:
“While the inmate population has declined slightly, its budgetary increases are met with illogical staffing cuts and executive bonuses,” Fausey said. “The mission-critical staffing cuts in the early 2000s led to the elimination of a second housing officer in many of our high security housing units.”
Fausey said isolation as a result of those cuts led to the killings of two officers and hoped added accountability would result in safer conditions.