Cooks, nurses guard inmates with US prisons down 6K officers

Nearly one-third of federal correctional officer jobs in the United States are vacant, and that’s forcing prisons to use cooks, teachers, nurses and other workers to guard inmates.

At a federal penitentiary in Texas, prisoners are locked in their cells on weekends because there aren’t enough officers to watch the inmates. Elsewhere in the system, fights are breaking out and inmates have escaped in recent months.

The Justice Department budgeted for 20,446 full-time correctional officer positions in 2020, but the agency that runs federal prisons says it currently employs 13,762 officers.

The Bureau of Prisons insists that many of its facilities still have a full complement of officers who focus solely on maintaining order.