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1st federal prison to experience COVID-19 outbreak now short-staffed: Officials

(WASHINGTON) — The first federal prison to experience a COVID-19 outbreak in March of 2020 is now severely short-staffed, the Louisiana congressional delegation and members of the Bureau of Prison union say.

FCI Oakdale in Louisiana experienced a severe COVID-19 outbreak in March of 2020, so bad the Justice Department inspector general was critical of the BOP for how it failed to separate inmates at the facility during the first weeks of the pandemic.

The Louisiana congressional delegation, led by Republican Sen. John Kennedy, wrote to the Bureau of Prisons to make sure it takes care of the staffing issues at the facility.

“FCC Oakdale faces unsustainably low staffing levels that is nearing crisis,” the congressional delegation writes. “These vacancies force FCC Oakdale to rely on mandatory overtime in order to meet the basic safety needs of the mission.”

They say they are concerned about the staffing levels and want to know what the Bureau is doing to address it.

“Staffing conditions at FCC Oakdale have understandably forced many veteran staff members to actively seek opportunities for promotion or transfer to other federal prison facilities and agencies or even retire.”

The Bureau of Prisons told ABC News it received and is reviewing the congressional letter. “We have no additional information to provide at this time,” the BOP said.

Federal prisons that are short-staffed are not a new problem, which is something the national BOP union has pointed out.

The local union president at FCC Oakdale tells ABC News FCC Oakdale was the first to experience a major outbreak of COVID-19 and staff worked overtime to provide coverage for the prison.

“During that time, as your aware, the staff worked an extreme amount of overtime to provide security coverage to the inmates at outside hospitals while receiving treatment for COVID,” Ronald Morris, AFGE Local 1007 President told ABC News. “This was a very hard mission staffing wise due to having inmates in the outside hospital, attempting to cover the post at the institution through augmentation and dealing with staff out due to COVID. Fast forward two years and it seems that the staff have not been able to recover. We are still short-staffed,” he said.

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