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Federal Prison Staffing Shortages Delay First Step Act Releases

Chronic staffing shortages in federal prisons and a lack of training are impeding the implementation of a Trump-era law designed to give nonviolent inmates the opportunity for early release, locking some up longer and contributing to eroding morale, union leaders and rank-and-file staff members tell NBC News.

Outgoing Bureau of Prisons Director Michael Carvajal was grilled this week by senators at a contentious hearing at which employee whistleblowers described unsanitary and unsafe conditions at a federal penitentiary in Atlanta and sexual abuse by staff members at a women's prison in California, among other allegations of misconduct.

Staff members at some large prisons said carrying out the First Step Act, sign in 2018 by then-President Trump, has been taxing, if not impossible.

"It's not going at all," Joe Rojas, literacy coordinator at the Coleman Federal Corrections Complex in Florida, said of the First Step Act's implementation.