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BOP Lifts Maximum Age for New Guards to 40

On October 1, 2023, the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) implemented a temporary policy raising the maximum age for guard candidates to 40. The previous upper age limit was 37. The new policy is aimed at solving a staffing crisis that has left nearly a third of guard positions vacant as the overall workforce at the agency has shrunk 20% over the past seven years.

Increased prisoner violence has been blamed for the chronic understaffing by officials at unions representing the guards, who also point to BOP’s history of mismanagement and its failure to adequately address safety concerns. They point out that the crisis affects the mental and physical well-being of prisoners, too.

The new policy, effective through the end of the fiscal year in October 2024, is the latest effort by BOP Director Colette Peters to address the problem, which she has attributed to low wages and a lack of training, as well as mandatory overtime that results from shortstaffing, prompting even more in a negative feedback loop.

The new policy risks potential age discrimination claims from older candidates unable to meet the physical demands of the job. While BOP has a commitment to a “young and vigorous workforce,” policy of its parent agency, the federal Department of Justice, acknowledges the potential value of experienced candidates. A forced retirement age of 57 for guards also raises questions about the policy’s long-term success.

Many state prison systems have an upper age limit of 36 for new guards, including Texas and New York. However, in Florida and California, there is no limit at all.


Source: Federal Times

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