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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 4/23/17

Federal Prison Wardens' Absurd Mismanagement Bonuses

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Federal Bureau of Prisons Seal
Federal Bureau of Prisons Seal
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The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) doled out more than $2 million in "performance bonuses" to wardens and its most senior administrators over the past three years, even as it was dealing unsuccessfully with issues of overcrowding, terrible health care for prisoners, and a major sexual harassment lawsuit.

USA Today reported that the awards "ranged from a $7,000 payment last year to a DC administrator, to $28,000 to the agency's acting director, Thomas Kane, and $25,000 for Deborah Schutt, assistant director of the Health Services Division." Fully half of the $2 million in bonuses was paid just in the last year.

And to make matters worse, four of the biggest recipients of cash awards were senior executives at the BOP's largest prison complex at Coleman, Florida, in the midst of a sexual harassment lawsuit involving hundreds of current and former female staffers who say that prison administrators repeatedly failed to protect them from years of abuse. The BOP's offer of a $20 million settlement is currently pending before a federal judge.

A union official who helped gather much of the evidence in the case against the BOP told the press that there is "no justification at all for these people to be rewarded." He's right. But this is standard operating procedure in the federal government, not just in the Bureau of Prisons. These aren't rewards for exemplary performance, necessarily, as much as they are simply cash payments for the "in crowd." The good old boys make sure that the other good old boys are happy.

When I was at the CIA, members of the Senior Intelligence Service, comparable to the Senior Foreign Service at the State Department and the Senior Executive Service in the rest of government, were always in good spirits at the end of the fiscal year, around September 30. That was when SIS bonuses were decided. At the CIA most people at the SIS-1, 2, or 3 level -- there are six levels above GS-15, with the head of the organization being an SIS-6 -- got in the neighborhood of a $25,000 bonus, which was paid just before Christmas. People at higher levels got more money. And remember, my information is more than a decade old. They likely get a lot more money now than they did then.

The official reason for the disbursement of millions of dollars of the taxpayers' money to fat cat federal bureaucrats is simple. As "executives," they think they should be paid like executives in the private sector. They aren't, so the end-of-year bonus helps to ease the pain a little. At the CIA, some of the "executives" threw big Christmas parties at their homes for their employees. It was an attempt to spread the wealth a little. Most, though, didn't. I remember one of my bosses quietly pulling into her parking space in a brand new Porsche 911 the day after getting her bonus.

This is a problem across the entire federal government. It's a problem of entitlement and of no accountability. Allow sexual harassment to go on in your prison for years on end? No problem. Here's a $20,000 bonus. The Bureau of Prisons leadership isn't going to do anything because they're getting their bonuses, too. Are you the head of the Bureau of Prisons and have no idea the size of a solitary confinement cell? Not a problem. Here's your $25,000. Congress won't care because they treat oversight as a joke. Allow the greatest terrorist attack in American history? That's ok. We'll give you another $30,000 three weeks later to help ease the pain.

This story is bigger than the back of the A Section in USA Today. This should be at the forefront of peoples' minds. It's an outrage. And we taxpayers should demand of our elected officials that they end the practice immediately.

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John Kiriakou spent 14 years at the CIA and two years in a federal prison for blowing the whistle on the agency's use of torture. He served on John Kerry's Senate Foreign Relations Committee for two years as senior investigator into the Middle (more...)

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