“Next man up” is a phrase traditionally associated with the football field, but increasingly it’s echoing through the halls of our nation’s prisons. Through a process called “augmentation,” the Federal Bureau of Prisons routinely forces its noncustodial employees — think nurses, teachers, cooks and secretaries — to act as guards. Meant as a short-term salve to budgetary woes and staffing shortages, its regular use is likely to not only contribute to these same problems, but to endanger staff and prisoners. It also makes rehabilitation that much harder.
Augmentation has become an increasingly familiar practice in our federal prisons since the Bureau of Prisons started a cost-cutting initiative in 2005, and it’s likely to get worse. Rather than heed recent congressional calls to hire more staff and reduce an already unsafe inmate-to-correctional-officer ratio, the Trump administration has eliminated 6,000 positions and announced it intends to cut thousands more. Pressed to fill “mission critical” positions at understaffed facilities, wardens will have no choice but to increase reliance on augmentation.
The Bureau of Prisons justifies its use of augmentation by touting its philosophy that every employee is a “correctional worker first.”
…read the rest of the op-ed here.
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