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Arrests of prison guards soars 90% over last decade

According to the Federal Justice Department's inspector general, arrests of Bureau of Prisons (BOP) guards has increased almost 90% in the past ten years, while the prisoner population has grown 25%. The report did not state how many cases originated from private federal prisons. The populations have increased 120% in the same time period, in those institutions.

The report noted that misconduct investigations doubled, and more than half of the offenses were committed during the officers' first two years on the job, and recommended that the BOP improve its hiring, training, and supervision of rookie officers. Also affecting the increase was the increasing numbers of female prisoners, youthful offenders, and the increase in the number of private prisons.

Unfortunately, past hiring practices of prison guards often resulted in a lower quality of applicants, according to the report. Salaries and benefits for state prison guards has generally tended to be lower than for sworn officers in municipal police departments in the same geographic area. BOP guard salaries are higher than state salaries, but still tend to be lower than police department salaries, except where the institutions are located in rural areas. According to Barry Krisberg, a law professor at the Berkeley Center for Criminal Justice, some guards in both public and private systems think that their actions will have no consequences for them becaase the process for their punishment is so convoluted.

According to Krisber, "Screenings are a good start, but what we need is far better training in terms of what the expectations of the jobs are, better supervision to (find) potential problems and ways to deal with complaints about their behavior."

Robert Parkinson, author of a book about Texas prisons, notes that as the number of female prisoners grows, so does the rate of sexual harassment between officers and prisoners, who are also trending younger. "In federal prisons, it used to just be drug kingpins, tax-fraud prisoners, (and) assassins. But now it's become full of more low-level offenders, which ironically makes for more violent prisoners. A middle-aged kingpin is a relatively calm, responsible guy, whereas an 18-year old...selling. . going to be a lot more impulsive."

Joe Baumann, a corrections officer in the California State Rehabilitation Center in Marco, California, said that better training and pay vastly im­proved the quality of guard hires. "The caliber of person just went up. More people had degrees, previously employment, or previous careers when the pay scale went up. We started getting a lot more people from private enterprise.   Prior to that, we got a lot of people who worked fast food (or) manual labor jobs."

The BOP had no comment on the report.


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