BOP - ABOVE THE LAW
H.R. 2617 better known as the Fiscal Year 23 Combined Appropriations Act was approved by 1117th Congress and ultimately signed into law on December 29, 2022. This act funds the US Government until September 30, 2023.
Bureau of Prisons Northeast Regional Director J. Petrucci instructs wardens at federal prisons to ignore federal law and announces retirement 5 days later. Associate Warden J. Nash at FCI Danbury quotes the name of the law in his message to supervisors.
Listen to Union President Curnan and Treasurer Wynne Talk to Ethan & Lou on January 26, 2023 on I95
Included in this act were several provisions that make life and work at the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) safer for both staff and inmates alike. These bills have "Explanatory Statements" or "Notes" that break down each part of the bill and explain in detail what funds are used and how. In regard to the Bureau of Prisons, the Senate Appropriations Committe released their explanation under Senate Record S7819-S8551. All of these can be found on Congress.gov.
Funding for critical facility upgrades, new prisons, and enhancements to radio communications and video monitoring is a benefit to staff and inmates alike. Better conditions reduce violence and enhanced video surveillance ensures accountability amongst inmates and staff.
Some of the highlights were additional funding for new hires. The BOP has been cutting staffing to outrageously low numbers for over two decades. To offset the lack of correctional officers, the BOP decided to augment or reassign staff not normally in the officer role. This includes medical staff, accounting staff, cooks, etc... This practice has been abused by the BOP increasingly since 2016. The new law limits augmentation or this type of reassignment to 10% of each week, or on average of a maximum 4 hours. Augmentation is a dangerous practice that puts all lives at risk. Nearly all BOP staff at the institution or facility level are Federal Law Enforcement Officers. This ensures all staff inside the prison walls can respond to institutional emergencies. Instead, it is used to cover shifts when someone calls out sick or for other reasons.
On January 12, 2023, emails were sent from the Northeast Regional Director instructing wardens in the region to stay "status quo" with augmentation procedures. This was a direct disregard for the law signed just 12 days earlier. This email was received by Local 1661 on January 12 from FCI Danbury Warden Timethea Pullen and an email from Associate Warden Jeremy Nash directing supervisors at FCI Danbury to do the same.
Local 1661 then sent several requests and inquiries along with complaints of wrongdoing to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Inquiries were also sent to the legal department and ethics located in Washington DC. As of January 23, 2023 no response has been received by the legal department. The BOP Ethics Office did reply and stated augmentation is not an ethics issue. We revised our inquiry and asked if it was an ethics violation for a federal official to disobey the law. Ethics replied again stating that their department does not handle request surrounding augmentation.
On January 17, 2023, only five days after the Regional Director directed wardens to disregard law, he announced his retirement via conference call to the wardens in the region. Warden Timethea Pullen has taken a demotion and is transferring to Colorado in the next week.
Associate Warden Jeremy Nash is said to become the acting warden at this time. The local has issue with this as in his email to supervisors he quoted the actual public law and blatantly said not to abide by it and reversed action that made FCI Danbury compliant taken just a week before. The union is looking into pickets, media coverage, and pressure from Congress to have him demoted or taken out of power at FCI Danbury. A copy of the information given to all supervisors at FCI Danbury can be downloaded here.
Please call the Congressional Switchboard at 202-224-3121 and tell your congressman or woman that the BOP is "Not Above the Law" and thank them for continuing to add language and funding to keep those in your nightmares secured.