WASHINGTON — The Federal Bureau of Prisons is making deep cuts in its prison industry workforce as officials struggle to rein in spending amid the budget reductions of the last several years.
FBOP officials scaled back or ceased operations at a number of recycling and manufacturing facilities operated by UNICOR-Federal Prison Industries, as part of an ongoing effort to save about $16 million in annual operating costs.
The most recent round of cuts announced by federal authorities includes the closure of nine facilities in several states, including California and Pennsylvania. An additional 800 prison industries positions could be shed by the end of the year, officials say.
The corporation, which operates about 100 facilities in more than 70 locations, is struggling to adjust to deteriorating market conditions. Officials have identified excess production capacity as the primary cause of the $20 million loss recorded in fiscal year 2009. FPI offers more than 80 products and services for sale to government agencies and the restructuring plan is designed to streamline operations, improve efficiency and return the company to profitability, officials say.
In the last several years, officials cut the inmate work rolls at FPI facilities by more than 7,000 inmates, according to official figures. Currently, approximately 16,100 of the more than 211,000 inmates under federal supervision are attached to FPI facilities, compared to more than 23,100 inmates in 2008.
Announcing the closure or downsizing of 18 facilities in several states, including Alabama, California, Colorado, Florida, Texas and South Carolina, FPI authorities implemented the first phase of the multi-year economic rationalization plan in 2009 to end ongoing operational losses totaling an estimated $60 million. FPI facilities in Arizona, Florida, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania were also slated for closure in the initial phase of restructuring.
Congress established FPI as a government-run corporation in 1934 with the stated organizational mission of providing federal inmates with vocational training and marketable job skills to support successful re-entry outcomes.