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Sunday, August 11, 2013

Officers at U.S. Penitentiary Atwater voice safety concerns -- and reach out to elected officials for help

Merced Sun-StarCorrectional officers at U.S. Penitentiary Atwater say the recent elimination of a special team geared toward keeping tabs on inmates is making the prison a more dangerous place to work.

Members of American Federation of Government Employees Local 1242, the union representing the prison's correctional officers, say they've reached out to elected officials about deteriorating conditions and elimination of the team, generally referred to as a "shakedown crew."

The shakedown crew's job is to search the prison for eight hours, looking for contraband items and weapons on inmates and inside their cells.

Donald Martin, president of the union, said the shakedown crew was cut in March by prison officials because staff were needed to cover overtime slots to eliminate expenses.

Eliminating the shakedown crew, according to the union, is particularly troubling in the wake of a July 27 riot at the prison. According to the union, a lone officer was working in a housing unit with about 115 inmates when the riot erupted at the prison.

The union statement said the "institution lost control of an entire prison housing unit, forcing the responding officers to use chemical and other non- lethal munitions to take back the unit by force." continue reading...

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