The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

March 2, 2013

Cuts rankle federal prison guards

LEWISBURG — Dave Bartlett attended Saturday’s funeral for federal corrections officer Eric Williams, 34, of Nanticoke, killed Monday by an inmate at the U.S. Penitentiary at Canaan, Wayne County. His friend and co-worker Tony Liesenfeld planned to attend but couldn’t.

Neither man knew Williams but, being corrections officers at the U.S. Penitentiary at Lewisburg, Williams is “a fallen brother,” Bartlett said, and that was enough to attend.

Williams’ death also was enough to stir their ire. With government-wide spending cuts in effect, Bartlett, president of Local 148 of the American Federation of Government Employees, and Liesenfeld, a union official, said resultant furloughs will slam the nearly 350 guards at Lewisburg, putting them at greater risk of injury — or worse.

The cuts took effect Friday, when Congress couldn’t reach an alternative deficit-reduction deal, triggering the sequester — $85 billion in federal spending cuts. Overtime pay was the first thing to go, Liesenfeld said, and augmentation, which the Lewisburg prison has used since 2008, is expected to increase.

Augmentation covers for gaps when there aren’t enough corrections officers on hand, but it puts into service “non-custody officers” — anyone from an accountant to an office manager — to perform the officers’ normal duties. Such staff are trained, but it’s not their regular job.

Read more about this story in Sunday's edition of The Daily Item.

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