Crime is on the rise — by correctional officers in the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
And junior officers are the culprits more than their fair share of the time.
The number of correctional officers who were arrested almost doubled in fiscal year 2010 compared with 2001, according to a report by the Justice Department’s inspector general.
During those 10 years, a total of 272 correctional officers were arrested, rising from 18 in 2001 to 34 in 2010. That’s an 89 percent increase. The number of officers rose only 24 percent during that same time.
The report went beyond the numbers and looked at the “relationship between the misconduct record of recently hired Correctional Officers and those officers’ background characteristics, such as their record of discipline at previous jobs, education level, and credit history,” said a press release from the Office of Inspector General.
“Although the BOP currently assesses such characteristics individually when deciding whether to hire or make a Correctional Officer a permanent member of the BOP’s staff, the BOP does not conduct any systematic evaluation of combinations of background characteristics as part of its hiring process.”
The more dramatic numbers involve misconduct investigations and allegations: Investigations more than doubled, from 2,299 to 4,603. There were 32,455 misconduct allegations against correctional 0fficers between 2001 and 2009 that had final resolutions; 52 percent were substantiated.
About 58 percent of the officers with substantiated allegations of misconduct who were suspended for at least one day were on the job less than two years when they violated regulations.
BOP does make an effort to hire only those fit for correctional duty, the IG indicated.
“Before making a conditional offer of employment, the BOP assesses applicants’ suitability through a series of steps that include a pre-employment interview, a panel interview, and credit and criminal records checks,” the report said. “Information provided by applicants is compared against 30 measurable thresholds in the BOP’s Guidelines of Acceptability. If an applicant exceeds any one Guideline threshold, the applicant is considered unsuitable and can only be hired if the BOP grants a waiver.”
But the problem, according to the report, is that BOP does not coordinate the information it gathers about an applicant to develop a more complete picture.
“The BOP’s current system,” the report reads, “does not include a mechanism for systematically considering combinations of characteristics . . . when deciding whether to hire or make a Correctional Officer a permanent member of the BOP’s staff.”
The BOP response included in the report said the agency agrees with the IG recommendation to “consider a composite scoring template for applicants.”
Officials of the union representing correctional officers could not be reached for comment.
A coalition of federal employee organizations, representing 4.6 million federal and postal workers and retirees, is urging Congress to carefully pick and choose from among items in President Obama’s deficit reduction plan.
In a letter to members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, the 21 members of the Federal-Postal Coalition said: “We are particularly concerned with proposals that would have an inequitable impact on federal employees and ask you to reject these initiatives.”
“We appreciate the Administration’s call for ‘some sacrifice from all of us,’ ” the letter continues. “However, federal employees are being disproportionately targeted in the continuing waves of deficit reduction proposals. Not only are federal employees facing layoffs and downsizing due to shrinking agency budgets, they are already subject to compensation cuts.” A two-year pay freeze was imposed on federal workers in January.
The letter urged the committee to reject proposals to:
●Increase federal employee contributions to the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund by 1.2 percent “with no corresponding increase in benefits.”
●Eliminate the Federal Employees Retirement System annuity supplement for new hires. “Since early retirees do not receive Social Security benefits until age 62, the annuity supplement provides income critical to their retirement security.”
●Stop Saturday mail delivery. Halting Saturday delivery “would save little money while disproportionately hurting rural communities, the elderly and small businesses,” while allowing competitors an opening to provide that service.
The coalition does like some parts of the president’s plan, including proposals to:
●Cap salaries of private contractors at approximately $200,000, a reduction from the current cap of almost $700,000.
●Streamline the pharmacy benefit program under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, for a savings of $1.6 billion.
●Provide additional funding for new IRS tax enforcement efforts.
The coalition also said it was pleased the administration did not call for across-the-board cuts in the workforce, as some congressional Republicans favor. “Arbitrary downsizing has historically led to wasteful privatization and the use of contractors to perform functions that are too important or sensitive to be outsourced at a much higher price,” the coalition said.