Correctional officers could be compromised as shutdown drags on

As the second missed paycheck approaches for federal workers, there are new concerns in federal prisons: that correctional officers could be compromised and that services at prisons could be shut off at any minute.

Although it could happen anytime, with correctional officers not getting paid during the partial government shutdown, it puts them in a vulnerable position. Eric Young, head of the Federal Bureau of Prisons Union said, in some prisons they have wealthy inmates and they could potentially bribe a correctional officer.

He placed the blame squarely on the shutdown, adding that people need to heat their homes and put food on the table, but that is hard to do when they're working but not getting paid.

"I wouldn't rule it out that there would be compromised staff," Young said. "The likelihood of them being compromised is growing every day."

Last year in Atlanta, for example, a former guard pleaded guilty to bribery after he made thousands of dollars through tobacco sales to prisoners, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Northern District of Georgia.

The starting salary for a correctional officer is $41,487 a year. That gradually increases, but many live paycheck to paycheck.

Another issue Young sees: federal prisons not being able to provide services to inmates.

"I've been waiting for a story to come in that says the lights went out," Young told ABC News. "There is no money to take care of the inmate population."

Young added that federal prisons are "working on IOU's," meaning the bills such as electric or food, aren't getting paid.

Inmates are getting paid through non-appropriated funds, Young explained and get money from family and commissary funds which aren't appropriated by Congress.

Young worries that inmates could potentially see how the government shutdown is affecting federal prisons and destroy or overtake a facility.

If inmates start to lose certain privileges and the prison staff becomes overrun, it could cause a security threat.

He mentioned that inmates are already starting to lose visitation privileges due to lack of staffing.

"The longer it goes the more dangerous it becomes," Young said.

In a statement, the Bureau of Prisons reiterated that it was not one of the agencies funded.

"The Bureau of Prisons is primarily funded by an annual appropriation enacted by Congress and signed by the President for the necessary expenses for the administration, operation, and maintenance of Federal penal and correctional institutions. At this time, there is no enacted and signed appropriation for the Bureau," the BOP said.

The Bureau of Prisons correctional officers are some of the more than 800,000 federal workers who are most affected by the government shutdown. Over the holiday weekend, after watching news reports, University of Kentucky basketball coach John Calapri through his foundation pitched in to help some of the families who are not receiving paychecks.

According to Bureau of Prisons Union Officials approximately $250,000 was given by the Calipari Foundation with help from the Kroger Corporation through the REACH program, a non profit grant to essential Federal Employees effected by government shutdown, who met the criteria.

Also in Kentucky, the local Bureau of Prisons Union was also putting up billboards calling on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to end the shutdown and pay correctional officers.

It is not just in Kentucky, which is home to five federal prisons, but across the country, where people are stepping up to help those who are affected by the shutdown. There have been fundraisers, food banks and hot meals. Union officials in Williamsburg, South Carolina even dipped into their own pockets to feed employees.
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