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Staffing shortages blocking female inmates from critical services, says government watchdog

September 18, 2018

Female inmates are not getting the care and services they required because of staffing shortages, a government watching said Tuesday.

After studying policies at 28 women’s prisons across the country, Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz concluded the Federal Bureau of Prisons must take additional steps to ensure female inmates get access to trauma treatment or pregnancy programs.

“We concluded that [Federal Bureau of Prisons] has not been strategic in its management of female inmates,” Mr. Horowitz said in the 60-page report.

Many of these shortcomings are because of a lack of available staff. The federal Bureau of Prisons has an estimated 7,100 vacant staff positions.

Earlier this year the Bureau of Prisons had 37,237 civil positions and 19,073 correctional officers.

But the Trump Administration has sought to reduce those numbers under its 2019 budget proposal. Under the Trump plan, the number of civilian and correctional officer positions would fall to 36,909 and 18,674 respectively.

Even at current staffing levels, prisons are not meeting female prisoners’ needs, Horowitz said.

For example, Bureau of Prison policy requires that female prisoners can only be searched by female correctional officers. However, the Bureau of Prisons can’t ensure a female officer is available at each post where such searches are required, the report says.

The report also concluded that 90 percent of the female inmate population would benefit from trauma treatment, but staffing shortages make it nearly impossible to provide eligible inmates with the care they need, according to the report.

“The lack of sufficient staff is most noticeable at larger female institutions where inmates face delays in completing each of the program’s two prerequisites as well as the program’s treatment phases,” the report said.

The Inspector General recommended the Bureau of Prisons improve allocating its staff across the correctional facilities across the country and ensure that all staffers have received proper training.

In a response attached to the report, Hugh Hurwitz, acting director for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, said he agrees with the inspector general’s recommendations and vowed to improve both staffing and training.

“The BOP will determine the appropriate level of staffing that should be allocated to the Women and Special Populations Branch based on an analysis of its broad mission and responsibilities,” Mr. Hurtwitz wrote.

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