Mayor Marion Barry's orders to cut about 400 prison guards and other corrections employes to head off a huge budget deficit will also prompt the closing of several inmate halfway houses and a cut in the number of teachers in prison education programs, corrections officials say.
The prospect of the massive cuts -- amounting to about 20 percent of the 1,880-person corrections staff and the largest faced by any city department -- has angered employes and inmates alike.
While employes are bitter over the possibility that some will lose their jobs, a number of the 3,800 inmates in the Lorton prison and the D.C. jail are predicting that the resulting reduction in eductional opportunities and other services will lead to an increase in inmate violence.
"We can sit here hem-hawin' and jaw-jackin', but this is it, man," said one inmate serving a long sentence for armed robbery at the 3,000-acre Lorton facility. "You cut services and you are looking for an explosive situation."
"It won't be the top people who are trying to buy $80,000 homes getting bumped," snapped corrections counselor Regina Gilmore. "It's people who are just trying to pay rent who get bumped."
William Golightly, the top budget official in the department, acknowledged Friday that his staff is facing the loss of about 400 "warm bodies, not just staff positions." He said each layoff must go through a bureaucratic tangle to determine job security and seniority rights and that thousands of dollars will be spent to pay for unused leave time, severance pay and possible court challenges.
In addition, he said, every employe will get at least a 30-day notice. Because of the massive cost in cutting off employes, the department will actually end up saving "significantly less" that Barry's projected $4.5 million this fiscal year, he said.
Golightly said no final decisions have been made as to which programs will be reduced or canceled, or whether visiting hours and inmate social functions will be affected. But he warned that "all we've got [to cut] are people and programs."
Golightly said the century-old D.C. jail annex will finally be closed and that its 500 prisoners will be shifted to the new jail while others go to Lorton. He said several halfway houses will be closed, sending about 60 work-release prisoners back to jail.
Golightly said the size of cuts on school programs -- the top worry among inmates who are working toward parole -- has not been determined. He said, however, that there would be decreases in the teaching staffs that offer classes from basic reading to college-level master's degrees. s
In interviews last week, guards and other employes expressed anger that little information has come from headquarters in the District and that Corrections Director Delbert Jackson has not come to Lorton to explain what is happening.
"We never get the attention of officials," said Vince Gibbons, a physchologist who expects he'll lose his jobs. "We've tried to get copies of RIF [lay-off] procedures. The panic is rampant. The staff can't do its job. I've never seen Delbert Jackson's face."
"Everybody's getting a little shaky," said 20-year veteran guard Joseph Sakalouskas.
"Maybe we can curtail an explosive situation if we can get some volunteer help to make up for the cutback, said inmate William Biggs. But Carl Clark, a 38-year-old longtime inmate, was skeptical.
"People in society don't care about me. Just lock me up.But you're going to have to deal with me when you cut services," Clark shouted.
Correction officials acknowledge an increased potential for disturbances among idle inmates, but say records of assaults are down over past years.
But the guards and inmates dispute that, saying prisoners live by a "code of silence" and just get even. They said they don't report attacks unless they have to get hospital attention.
One inmate who recently needed medical help claimed he had been hurt playing basketball and that someone had struck him in the face with an elbow. But a guard checking his condition said, "it must have been a repeating elbow with those wounds."
Officials of the eomploye's union that represents most of the guards and professional employes said the budget cuts are helping their year-old effort to revitalize the union. Recently, the union has sponsored several rallies and press conferences calling for an investigation of mismanagment within the department.
"We want more guards, not less. The fat and waste are not on the 'front line,'" D.C. jail union leader Bernard Demczuk said recently. He said the inmates fear for their safety inside poorly guarded compounds.
"If we don't come up with some other means of getting necessities," said a Lorton inmate, "it's going to be a real bad situation."