Posted February 26, 2013--- 5:45 p.m.
Budget cuts at federal prisons like Oxford's Federal Correctional Institute means fewer staff members but doesn't mean fewer inmates, so the main concern is still being able to run these facilities safely.
"For the last seven years we've been working at bare minimum staffing, skeleton crews, and now with sequestration we're looking at even deeper cuts. It's not going to be safe," said Oxford FCI's union vice president, James Salzwedel.
Salzwedel says sequestration would mean cuts of about 21 staff members to an already short staff for their nearly 1,300 inmates.
The Bureau of Prison's budget stands to lose $338 million, and staff members have already been told they'll be furloughed without pay for 14 days this year.
"Direct results are assaults on staff," said Salzwedel.
Assaults like the one just last night at Canaan Penitentiary in Pennsylvania when a federal correctional officer was killed by an inmate using a homemade weapon.
"If we were properly staffed, the odds of something like that happening would drastically decrease," said Salzwedel.
Also facing cuts are re-entry programs for inmates. However, Oxford FCI's union president Dave Dauman says cutting back on inmate privileges would be an alternative to staffing cutbacks.
"We can cut back on education; we can cut back on recreations; we can cut back on visitations," said Dauman. "Why are the staff paying the price? Why aren't the inmates suffering more?"
Oxford's Institute wouldn't directly respond but the U.S. Department of Justice echoed the union leader's concerns with this statement: "...While the Justice Department is considering what steps can be taken to aid BOP, none of the department's actions can mitigate the severity of every cut faced..."
Union leaders made their voices heard to congressional representatives.