Press Releases

Hickenlooper, Bennet Urge Biden Administration to Increase Pay and Address Unsustainable Working Conditions at FCC Florence

Dec 6, 2022

Following increased retention bonus for FCC Florence Correctional Officers in July, Senators request 25 percent retention bonus for non-custody staff

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators John Hickenlooper and Michael Bennet urged Director of Bureau of Prisons (BOP) Colette S. Peters and Director of U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Kiran Ahuja to address understaffing and unsustainable working conditions at the Federal Correctional Complex in Florence, Colorado (FCC Florence). In their letter, the senators request a 25 percent retention bonus for all FCC Florence staff – both correctional officers and non-custody staff – to avoid additional attrition and help promote the recruitment and hiring of new staff.

“We write with concerns about understaffing and unsustainable working conditions at the Federal Correctional Complex in Florence, Colorado. This essential Bureau of Prisons workforce and their representative union have raised concerns about low pay, forced overtime, and dangerous working conditions that have exacerbated low morale, high attrition, and an inability to recruit and hire sufficient staff,” said Hickenlooper and Bennet in the letter. “We request your help in addressing these issues to ensure a safe environment for BOP staff, the surrounding communities, and the inmate population.”

FCC Florence is short at least 188 correctional staff, which has placed employees and the inmate population in an unsustainable environment and created a reliance on mandatory overtime. As FCC Florence remained short-staffed over the past year, the facility saw two inmate homicides and six serious assaults. To address these urgent staffing issues, in July, OPM increased the retention bonus from 10% to 25% for correctional officers, which helped fill some vacancies. In March of 2022, OPM granted non-custody staff a 10% retention bonus, including teachers, case managers, counselors, and maintenance workers. As stated in their letter, Hickenlooper and Bennet support AFGE Local 1169’s request to allow all FCC Florence’s staff to receive a 25 percent retention bonus.

The full text of the letter is available HERE and below:

Dear Director Peters and Director Ahuja:

We write with concerns about understaffing and unsustainable working conditions at the Federal Correctional Complex in Florence, Colorado (FCC Florence). This essential Bureau of Prisons (BOP) workforce and their representative union have raised concerns about low pay, forced overtime, and dangerous working conditions that have exacerbated low morale, high attrition, and an inability to recruit and hire sufficient staff. We request your help in addressing these issues to ensure a safe environment for BOP staff, the surrounding communities, and the inmate population.

FCC Florence comprises four facilities: the minimum-security Federal Prison Camp, the medium-security Federal Correctional Institution (FCI), the high-security United States Penitentiary, and the Supermax Administrative Maximum Facility where many of the nation’s most high-profile criminals are detained. FCC Florence is our nation’s only federal super maximum facility, yet it remains one of the most understaffed prisons in the country.  

FCC Florence is short at least 188 correctional staff, including 120 correctional officers and 66 non-custody staff below the authorized amount. This understaffing has placed employees and the inmate population in an unsustainable environment and created a reliance on mandatory overtime and reassignment of non-custody staff. In the past 12 months, BOP reassigned non-custody staff 2,247 times to augment correctional officers, with little to no advance notification. As FCC Florence remained short-staffed over the past year, the facility saw two inmate homicides and six serious assaults. Fatigue, exhaustion, and low morale have reduced staff productivity and led to more sick leave, retirements, and resignations.

To address these urgent staffing issues, BOP provided a 10% retention bonus to current correctional officers at FCC Florence. In January, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) gave FCC Florence direct hiring authority to increase its correctional workforce. In July, OPM increased the retention bonus from 10% to 25% for correctional officers, which helped fill some vacancies. In March of 2022, OPM granted non-custody staff a 10% retention bonus, including teachers, case managers, counselors, and maintenance workers – and many of these positions remain unfilled or hard to fill. 

In addition, uncompetitive compensation has compounded staffing issues at FCC Florence. Many comparable employers in the area pay more than the BOP. For example, non-custody correctional staff with the Colorado Department of Corrections (CDOC) make, on average, $15,000 more per year than BOP staff at FCC Florence. On top of this higher pay, CDOC correctional staff also receive retention bonuses.

Complicating the staffing shortage, in 2019, BOP decreased the number of positions authorized for each institution. These vacancies are often filled with costly overtime from already overworked staff. So far, in FY 2022, FCC Florence has paid more than $6.1 million in overtime for correctional officers, nearly double the $3.8 million in its budget. 

We appreciate the testimony from Director Peters to the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 29, 2022. In particular, we welcome her commitment to maintain “fully staffed institutions” as a “key priority for the Bureau.” In her testimony, she described how, “maintaining proper staffing levels promotes greater support for dedicated correctional workers who risk their own safety in a potentially dangerous environment on a daily basis to protect those housed in our facilities, their coworkers, and our communities.”

We completely agree. That is why we strongly support AFGE Local 1169’s request to allow all FCC Florence’s staff to receive a 25 percent retention bonus to avoid additional attrition and help promote the recruitment and hiring of new staff. We look forward to working with you to address the unsustainable staffing shortage at FCC Florence, and we would appreciate your response by December 20, 2022. 

Sincerely, 

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