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Congressman Tim Ryan

Representing the 13th District of Ohio

Congressman Tim Ryan Calls for Adequate Staffing at Bureau of Prisons

August 12, 2019
Press Release
Jeffrey Epstein’s apparent suicide brings renewed attention to chronic understaffing and unsafe conditions in federal prisons

Washington, DC – Congressman Tim Ryan (OH-13) today repeated his call for adequate staffing levels at the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) after Jeffrey Epstein’s apparent suicide. The incident brings renewed attention to the issue of chronically understaffed facilities, overworked correctional officers (COs), and unsafe conditions for inmates and COs alike.

“Critically understaffed prisons and overworked correctional officers are an epidemic in our federal prison system. Just as an overcrowded prison is a dangerous prison, so is an understaffed one. Correctional officers at BOP are not only responsible for ensuring the administration of justice, but also the personal safety and security of staff, inmates, and the public,” said Congressman Tim Ryan. “Every day, these men and women put their lives on the line to respond to issues related to gangs, violence, mental illness, sexual assault, and drugs. But staffing cuts, high leadership turnover, and a lack of support from the Trump Administration have pushed our correctional officers and the federal prison system to a breaking point. Sixteen-hour work days and extreme overtime shifts undermine preparedness, security, and overall well-being. It is a disservice to correctional officers and victims of crime seeking justice to allow chronic understaffing and a blatant disregard for safety to persist any longer.”

In May 2019, Congressman Tim Ryan secured strengthened report language in the Fiscal Year 2020 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies appropriations bill once again directing BOP to end its use of staff augmentation, whereby a non-custody correctional employee is assigned custody responsibilities to meet staffing needs.

In May 2018, Congressman Ryan secured report language in the Fiscal Year 2019 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies funding bill directing BOP to adjust staffing policies that jeopardize correctional officer safety and undermine inmate reentry programming.

In April 2018, Congressman Ryan and Congressman David B, McKinley (R-WV) met with then-Director Mark S. Inch to raise their serious concerns regarding BOP staffing practices that resulted in several injuries and fatalities at federal correctional institutions. Director Inch resigned from his position the following month on May 18, 2018.

In February 2018, Congressman Ryan wrote a letter to President Trump urging him to provide robust funding for BOP in his Fiscal Year 2019 budget and expressing his opposition to proposed cuts of 6,000 positions. Congressman Ryan also led a bipartisan letter from Members of Congress to then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions expressing similar concerns.