Dan Coakley

HAZELTON, W.Va. — Joe Coakley, warden at the Hazelton federal prison complex, announced his retirement Tuesday.

In an email to staff, Coakley wrote, “After 32 years of [Bureau of Prisons] service, including two tours of duty at Hazelton, I am retiring effective March 31, 2019.”

Coakley has been warden at the Hazelton complex since March 2016 and previously was there as an associate warden.

In December, Coakley sent an email to employees, denying a New York Times report that he was going to be fired by the Bureau of Prisons (BOP)

“It has been my great honor to serve as your warden,” he wrote Tuesday. “I have had a full and rewarding career and I cannot think of a better duty station for which to close it out. I want to thank each and every one of you for the hard work and dedication you display every day!”

Richard Heldreth Jr., president of Local 420 of the American Federation of Government Employees, said workers, “would like the agency to select his successor quickly, so that we can continue our efforts to address the staffing shortages and other concerns at the facility. The [federal] shutdown has put us even further behind in this regard.”

Hazelton garnered national attention last year after infamous gangster “Whitey” Bulger was killed within hours of arriving at the high-security penitentiary. It was the third inmate death in 2018. Afterwards a BOP review team visited the facility.

Coakley concluded his email Tuesday by urging workers to, “Stay safe!”

That has been a challenge for workers. Five staff members have been injured this year by inmates. Workers blame the Bureau of Prisons’ failure to fill open correctional officer positions for the problem.

Story by Kathy Plum