Jan. 13—SCRANTON — U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright on Friday said the $180.4 million in federal funding he helped secure will address critical staffing shortages at federal prisons across the country — including the U.S. Penitentiary, Canaan, in Wayne County.
"This much-needed financial support will provide robust federal investment in the safety of our federal prisons and the brave correction officers who go to work in them every day," Cartwright said. "I was proud to deliver this essential funding as the chair of the Commerce, Justice, Science Subcommittee."
Cartwright, D-Moosic, announced at a press conference Friday morning that as chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, he successfully secured $180,460,000 in additional funding for the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) in the 2023 Government Spending Package to sustain and increase BOP recruitment and hiring efforts nationwide.
Overall, Cartwright said the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) was funded at $8.7 billion — an increase of $582.6 million, or 7% more than the fiscal year 2022 enacted level, and includes funding for programs to allow prisoners to reenter society successfully as well as communications and security upgrades and other maintenance and repairs in federal prison facilities.
Cartwright said $180 million of the increase, above the Administration's request for BOP operations, will go towards the recruitment, retention and hiring of qualified corrections officers by offering competitive pay and benefits as well as retention and hiring bonuses.
Williams family support
"It has been 10 years since my son, Officer Eric Williams, was brutally murdered by an inmate at USP Canaan," said Donald Williams, father of the late Senior Officer Eric Williams. "Eric was working alone in a housing unit of 125 high security inmates when he was killed. Had there been a second officer on hand, the outcome may have been very different."
Williams said his organization — Voices of JOE — has worked in conjunction with the Council of Prison Locals the past 10 years trying to address the staffing crisis within the Bureau of Prisons.
"With this money now allocated by Congressman Cartwright and his Appropriations Committee, we are hopeful that some real resolution will be forthcoming to alleviate this ongoing crisis of understaffed prisons," said Williams, who attended the event with his wife, Jean.
Corrections Officer Dave Demas, who is also the Union President of AFGE Local 3003, said the officers appreciate Cartwright's support and his ongoing efforts to help recruit and retain employees at USP Canaan.
"In addition to corrections officers, we're actively hiring for a number of positions including all levels of medical personnel and administrative and clerical workers," Demas said. "The money Congressman Cartwright has helped us secure will really help us in our recruitment efforts and maintain our high standards of safety and professionalism throughout the institution."
To further support USP Canaan, Cartwright joined with U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton, to send a letter to the Secretary of Labor, the Director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management and the Director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget requesting Wayne County's inclusion in the New York locality pay area.
This recommendation, which would increase the salaries of federal employees working in Wayne County, has been tentatively approved by the President's Pay Agent, and following a formal rule-making process, workers would begin receiving the increased pay in January 2024.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons was established in 1930 to provide humane care for federal inmates by professionalizing and centralizing the federal prison system. The agency employs more than 34,000 workers and houses over 150,000 inmates in 122 institutions across the country.
Reach Bill O'Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.