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Manchin, Capito send letter concerning staffing at federal prisons

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., sent a letter Tuesday to the head of the Federal Bureau of Prisons about low staffing levels at West Virginia prison and related consequences.

In the letter to Director Mark Inch, the senators said they were “extremely disappointed” in the lack of progress regarding increased funding for federal correctional institutions in West Virginia. They added while they understand the challenges presented under the current budget, the current conditions in prisons are dangerous for employees.

“Instead of hiring more officers, BOP has reportedly relied on wide-spread augmentation of staff that presents severe, unacceptable safety risks. A recent decision by the Federal Labor Relations Authority found that BOP was augmenting staff at the Bennettsville, South Carolina penitentiary without adequate preparation thereby increasing the inherent risks to the facility,” the letter said. “Maintaining adequate staffing levels would eliminate the need for this dangerous practice.”

The bureau has six facilities in West Virginia.

Inch said in a Feb. 12 memorandum to staff additional reductions were likely. Reps. David McKinley, R-W.Va., Alex Mooney, Evan Jenkins and 49 other lawmakers sent a letter last month to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions concerning the shortages, urging the bureau to protect around 6,000 unfilled positions.

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