Federal Correction Officers Call For Increased Security

By: Marie Luby Email
By: Marie Luby Email

Federal corrections officers call for increased safety on the job.

Union employees talk about the issues they say are putting their lives at risk, during an informational picket outside the Big Sandy Federal Prison.

Senior correctional officer James McCarty says patrolling prison cells like these is a far cry from his years as a sheriff's deputy.

“We were well equipped, we were given a weapon, bullet-proof vest, pepper spray,” James McCarty said.

At the Big Sandy Federal prison, guards carry none of those.

“We only have our hands, our keys, our radio, and that's it,” Billy Farthing said.

Union employees say the prison is also overcrowded and understaffed and say they do not feel safe on the job.

“It's evident in our numbers and our statistics of staff being assaulted. it's increased,” McCarty said.

In 2006 two inmates were stabbed to death. A December 2007 assault sent four to the hospital. And so far in 2008, officers estimate another 15 assaults. A prison spokesperson says safety remains the top priority, and employees can expect to have stab-resistant vests in the coming weeks.

“We have adequate staff to do the very difficult job that we have to do. Whatever funding we are provided, we take that and do the best we can,” Phil Heffington said.

Union leaders have contacted Congressman Hal Rogers. His chief of staff tells us:

"Rogers has pressed these issues directly with BOP Director Harvey Lappin both privately and publicly in congressional hearings, and has requested specific information from BOP about the steps being taken to quell violence and alleviate the pressure on staff."

Bureau of Prisons officials tell us guards do have access to less-lethal devices in emergencies, but if guards routinely carried 'less lethal devices' like mace or pepper spray, inmates could easily get a hold of them.

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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by cole Location: Lexington on Nov 16, 2008 at 06:43 AM
    Go hug a tree Bill!
  • by Scott Location: Prestonsburg on Nov 16, 2008 at 03:16 AM
    Hey Anonymous, I was there for the entire picket. I don't remember anyone leave after the Wymt suv left. You must have been somewhere else. Next time try to get your facts right. Oh, and use some of that food stamp money to buy yourself a backbone then maybe you will not be afraid to use your name instead of "anonymous". I promise you that you wouldn't last 30 minutes behind that fence and until you have don't knock the people who can.
  • by Anonymous on Nov 15, 2008 at 08:15 AM
    Most folks just don't understand. They only know what they see on TV and that is only what the station managers see fit to tell them. Usually with factual errors that either don't get corrected at all or are corrected with a 15 second apology after going on for days with an inaccurate story. The death penalty should be used more often and more quickly applied and if the occassional non-guilty person fries, well this is war and there is always collatoral damage. Cages are made for animals and that is what these inmates are.
  • by Bib bill Location: SE Ky on Nov 15, 2008 at 12:44 AM
    If you worked for the Bureau of Prisons, you would have a different viewpoint. No protection other than, "help, help" is crazy. Stab resistant vests, pepper spray, batons, etc would enhance security in these places. Would you expect a police officer on the streets to work without a gun, bullet proof vest, baton, peper spray, etc???? These "guards" as you call them are "Correctional Officers" and are Federal law enforcement officers with limited powers of arrest. Would you work there without protection.... ponder that.
  • by John Location: Paintsville, KY on Nov 14, 2008 at 03:25 PM
    Perhaps your reporter should have asked Officer McCarty about the last time he actually patrolled a prison cell. I hear he likes to stay in a tower where he never comes in contact with any inmates, let alone disruptive ones.
  • by To Bill Location: Inez on Nov 14, 2008 at 12:29 PM
    Sure, turn some of them loose and let them go out and kill more innocent people. That is a USP, they aren't in there for stealing a piece of bubble gum.
  • by Bill Location: Floyd on Nov 14, 2008 at 11:28 AM
    Inmates are already mean when they get to a federal max..Thats why they are there..
  • by me Location: rite here on Nov 14, 2008 at 09:04 AM
    I have to say I agree with jake that is the rite thing to do let them kill thier self so funny LOL
  • by Anonymous on Nov 14, 2008 at 06:46 AM
    The point was made. However it was slated to occur elsewhere. People were strung out trying to find the location. The local Union Officals were informed by the Major and Police Chief that no permit was needed to conduct the informal picket in a local parking lot. However the BOP once again probiably got to officals and the outcome was changed. They were told that a permit was needed on that day and you needed 5 days to apply for it. Union officals drove and flew in from throughout the US to support the local union. If the judical system deems these inmates not worthy of staying in our society and must be locked away then why is it that our judicial system will not adequately fund or protect the people who must keep these violent inmates returning into society??????
  • by Don Location: McCreary county KY on Nov 14, 2008 at 06:20 AM
    These officers are not on strike. Federal Workers are not allowed to strike. These people were trying to bring attention to the dangers they face every day just simply going to work. Give these officers something to defend them selves with if an inmate gets it from the officer staff can get it back later. But when officers don't have anything to defend them selves that is a whole different story. It is real easy to say turn the inmates loose or keep them locked down. That is not the answer. EVERYONE would feel different if it was them or one of their family members that went to work every day under these circumstances and put their lives in jeopardy just trying to support their familys. These staff need a way to defend themselves from these violent inmates and that is the message they were trying to send out to the public, who really has no idea of what goes on behind the walls of our Federal Prisons.
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