The Bureau of Prisons and a U.S. Penitentiary at Lewisburg union representative remain at odds over the agency's management amid the coronavirus pandemic.

BOP spokesman Sue Allison disputes Local 148 president Andy Kline remarks regarding the agency's "lack of guidance" regarding quarantine of staff following the disclosure Saturday that Bucknell University is providing housing to prison employees returning from working in New York City and Ohio prisons where coronavirus has infected many staff and inmates.

Not so, said Allison, referring to information posted on the agency's intranet site.

"We will make sure that the information is shared with the Lewisburg staff if they haven't yet seen it posted," she said.

Kline stood firm on his position about the lack of a quarantine policy and said the information offered on the BOP website was not easily accessed and, with many officers having limited access and time to go online, it was not particularly helpful. Currently, returning staff are not being advised to self-quarantine but report back to work.

Instead, he said, the employees are accepting the university's offer to house them for 14 days since many were exposed to ill inmates.

Staff members that returned from Elkton, Ohio, were supervising inmates at a hospital who died while they were on the shift and four nurses they worked with have since tested positive for COVID-19, Kline said.

"The officers were exposed to numerous (COVID-19) positive inmates, some that died and some that never spiked a temperature above 98 degrees," he said.

Allison also disputes Kline's assertion that the prison is short-staffed since its mission was changed from a maximum to a medium-security facility in March 2019.

"Currently, USP Lewisburg has an authorized staffing compliment of 504 full-time employees," she said. "This compares to an average authorized staffing compliment of 278 full-time employees for similarly situated medium-security facilities in that region. As such, the agency is currently evaluating (USP Lewisburg) staffing complement to ensure it is commensurate with (the) mission change."

While the prison is allotted 504 full-time positions, Kline said, only 415 are filled, and with 20 staff still working in other federal prisons hampered by COVID-19, and other employees on leave for medical or other reasons, that leaves a current working staff of 372.

"Local 148 has never asked for one staff member - ever - above what we are allotted," he said. And now, with nearly 1,000 more inmates at the facility, it is operating at a 75-percent staffing level."

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