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Seattle Federal Jail Faces Staffing Crisis

Frank Coluccio had two hours of his shift to go at the federal detention center in SeaTac when he was given the news: “You’re being mandatoried.” That meant another eight hours of mandatory overtime, putting him at work from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m. Coluccio, an electronic technician, was overseeing a unit that day last February as part of an annual training. He’s not normally mandated to work a second shift. But the long days are a routine occurrence for the facility’s correctional officers, the Seattle Times reports. The detention center, which holds people facing federal criminal trials as well as some already sentenced, is severely short-staffed. It has a 27% vacancy rate for all positions, including case managers, medical providers, maintenance workers and teachers in a GED program.

The vacancy rate is much higher, 50%, for correctional officers. Authorized for 105 officers, the detention center had just 53 as of mid-December, according to the Bureau of Prisons. Even fewer may be available to oversee units housing the roughly 800 people currently incarcerated there. Some officers are on leave or don’t hold custodial posts, according to officials at the American Federation of Government Employees Local 1102, which represents detention center workers. They put the number of people who can oversee units at about 45 and say the situation is dangerous, in part because officers are exhausted from double shifts as often as three or four times a week. “Nothing bad has happened yet,” said Adam Cunningham, the union’s treasurer. “It’s just a matter of time.” Bureau of Prisons spokesperson Donald Murphy said in an email that the agency makes “every effort to ensure the physical safety of the individuals confined to our facilities,” and temporarily assigned 88 staffers from other institutions to the SeaTac facility over the last year.


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