Federal correctional officers will avoid the sequester furloughs facing many government employees this year, according to a Justice Department memo.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in an internal communication on Friday that the department shifted $150 million between accounts to avoid unpaid leave for Bureau of Prisons employees under the automatic spending cuts that took effect on March 1.
Last month, a federal correctional officer was slain at a penitentiary in Pennsylvania, prompting union officials to warn that the automatic reductions could worsen already unsafe working conditions within the federal prison system.
Holder said in the memo that the short-term funding plan Congress passed last week to keep the government operating through September would not provide relief from the $1.6 billion that the Justice Department must trim from its budget under the sequester.
However, the measure gives the Bureau of Prisons “$141 million above the fiscal fiscal year enacted level” for salaries and expenses, according to a press release from the Senate Committee on Appropriations.
Holder said in his memo that he shifted roughly the same amount of money to avoid furloughs of correctional officers using his “limited authorities to transfer and allocate existing funds from within the Department.”
A spokeswoman for the Justice Department declined to comment on the budget maneuvers that allowed the Bureau of Prisons to avoid furloughs.
The attorney general made no guarantees in his memo that Justice employees outside the Bureau of Prisons would avoid unpaid leave as a result of the cuts. “I am still evaluating whether we have the ability to avoid other furloughs in the department this year,” Holder said.
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