25% retention bonus may be on the way for federal prison staffers at FCC Florence

The fact that executives are working to bring help to staff is good news, the union says


By Tracy Harmon
The Pueblo Chieftain, Colo.
        
FLORENCE, Colo. — Beleaguered federal prison staffers could see a 25% retention pay bonus this year now that Federal Bureau of Prisons executives are making an effort to solve the dangerous staffing situation.

After a union-led Sept. 30 protest in which Federal Bureau of Prison employees voiced concerns about unsafe working conditions at the four-prison Florence Correctional Complex, officials agreed Dec. 23 to provide 10% retention pay to non-custody workers who often are called upon to serve as correctional officers during short-staffing situations.

American Federation of Government Employees Local 1169 which represents about 450 workers at the complex, organized the protest to bring attention to low morale and short-staffing issues which were leading to forced overtime, the use of augmentation during which staff were pulled from duties as teachers, cooks or counselors to fill in on correctional officer shifts.

This Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015 file photo shows a guard tower looming over a federal prison complex which houses a Supermax facility outside Florence, in southern Colorado.
This Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015 file photo shows a guard tower looming over a federal prison complex which houses a Supermax facility outside Florence, in southern Colorado. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley,File)

North Central Regional Director Barb Von Blanckensee said in a Dec. 23 memo that correctional officers got a similar 10% retention on June 9, 2020, and now the non-custody workers will receive the extra pay as well.

She indicated the human resources staff are preparing justification to the office of personnel management to request approval for a 25% retention incentive for correctional services staff at Florence.

"The staffing levels at FCC Florence were recently reviewed to evaluate the effectiveness of incentives. It has been determined the staffing levels for the entire complex are not improving as anticipated," Von Blanckensee wrote in a Dec. 23 memo.

[More: Most secure federal prison in U.S. is one of the least staffed, union says]

The fact that executives are working to bring help to the staff is good news for John Butkovich, who is union president.

"We thank the agency for listening to our concerns and taking action to help address the dangerous understaffing we are seeing at the prison," Butkovich said.

"The short-staffing issues have been going on for eight years at this complex, but the numbers are sinking to a historic low," Butkovich told The Pueblo Chieftain during the protest. "This complex is home to the most secure prison in the country, if not the world and it is now the lowest staffed."

Florence is home to four federal prisons, which house more than 2,200 inmates including the most dangerous in the nation who are incarcerated at Supermax.

"We are the forgotten law enforcement and our morale is horrific," Butkovich said in September.
   
(c)2022 The Pueblo Chieftain (Pueblo, Colo.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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