February 15, 2024

Manchin Pushes for FCC Hazelton Retention Pay, Bipartisan Prison Oversight Reforms After Disturbing DOJ Report

Charleston, WV – Today, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) released the following statement after the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) published a new report on inmate deaths in federal prisons. The report found that the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) failed to prevent the deaths of 344 inmates over the course of eight years, including 14 at West Virginia’s Federal Correctional Complex (FCC) Hazelton, the second highest amount of any BOP institution in the country.

Among other findings, the report indicates that, during the period studied, COs at FCC Hazelton were mandated to work 16-hour days up to 4 times per week. Hazelton also relies on “augmentation,” a practice in which non-CO staff, such as counselors, plumbers, cooks, and teachers, are required to work as COs. This is an extremely dangerous practice of putting untrained staff in threatening situations. The practice also diverts resources from other critical prison programs.

“I am deeply disturbed by this new report on inmate deaths in federal prisons, including at West Virginia’s FCC Hazelton facility. It is far past time we pass legislation to improve oversight and increase transparency to protect both the people working in these facilities and the individuals incarcerated in the federal prison system. We also must address the severe staffing shortages that exacerbate these dangerous environments. In November 2023, I called on BOP Director Colette Peters to approve a 25 percent retention incentive for all staff in good standing at FCC Hazelton and I renew this request.

“Today’s report should be a call to action and makes crystal clear that adequate staffing is essential for creating safer and more secure conditions for staff and inmates. While I will continue working with my colleagues to advance commonsense reforms, I call on Director Peters to quickly approve this request.”

Senator Manchin’s efforts to promote staff and inmate safety at FCC Hazelton and all federal prisons:

  • On November 2, 2023, Senator Manchin sent a letter to Federal BOP Director Colette Peters, urging her to approve a 25 percent retention incentive for all staff in good standing at Hazelton. According to data from BOP and the American Federal of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 420, FCC Hazelton has averaged between 70-85 Correctional Officer (CO) vacancies over the past year.  
  • On September 12, 2023, Senator Manchin sent a letter to Attorney General Garland, Deputy Attorney General Monaco, and BOP Director Peters urging them to investigate conditions at Hazelton.
  • On July 14, 2023, Senator Manchin secured in the Appropriations Committee-passed FY24 Commerce-Justice-Science funding bill language expressing concern with staffing shortages at BOP facilities, and high-security facilities in particular. The bill also includes language supporting the IG’s initiative to devote more dedicated resources to allegations of BOP misconduct.
  • On May 17, 2023, Senator Manchin introduced the Federal Prison Oversight Act, bipartisan legislation that would create a new oversight structure to ensure transparency, safety, and accountability in federal correctional facilities.
  • On March 28, 2023, Senator Manchin questioned U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland on addressing law enforcement personnel shortages in West Virginia, including at Hazelton.
  • On October 26, 2018, Senator Manchin wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to express concerns about staffing practices at the BOP.