— By Dave Beard, The Dominion Post
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The warden of the Hazelton federal prison complex in Preston County denied he is targeted for firing, contradicting a Friday report in the New York Times.
Warden Joe Coakley addressed the report in an email he sent to prison employees, which an employee supplied to The Dominion Post.
Coakley wrote: “I spoke personally with Acting Director Hugh Hurwitz this afternoon. He confirmed there have been no discussions regarding replacing me as Complex Warden. Additionally Bryan Antonelli, FCI Williamsburg Warden, has not be selected as Complex Warden at Hazelton. As I have stated many times, I am honored to be your Warden! I hope this addresses any rumors or concerns.”
Based on word from what it termed a high-ranking official, The Times reported that Hurwitz has told “multiple people” he plans to oust Coakley.
Hazelton’s high-security prison has been under the microscope after three prisoners were murdered in the last year, including gangster “Whitey” Bulger, who was killed within hours of arriving in late October.
The Times noted that the prison is nicknamed Misery Mountain.
On Tuesday, two officers at the adjacent FCI medium-security prison were injured after being assaulted by an inmate.
A review team from the U.S. Bureau of Prisons came to the complex Wednesday. On Oct. 3, before the Bulger murder, representatives of the U.S. Department of Corrections’ Corrections Information Council visited the prison and interviewed 58 inmates. The CIC then addressed a letter to Hurwitz identifying a number of problems and offering recommendations for each.
In January, the Bureau of Prisons announced the elimination of 6,000 positions nationwide, including 1,800 correctional officers. Plans call to eliminate another 1,000 positions as early as next year, according to one source.
At Hazelton, more than 80 positions were eliminated, 65 of which were custody staff positions. In addition, Hazelton has an additional 30-plus vacant custody staff positions.
The Times reported that Bulger’s murder has been a major embarrassment for a federal agency that was already under fire for dangerous conditions, understaffing, sexual harassment and its treatment of elderly and mentally ill inmates.
The official told the Times that Hurwitz is considering Antonelli to take over at Hazelton, and that Antonelli is considered a “cleanup guy” who is called in to fix problems at troubled prisons.