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USP Hazelton Correctional Officers Picket, Concerned About Safety

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PRESTON COUNTY -

Some employees at U.S. Penitentiary Hazelton are concerned about their safety.

Thursday, officers picketed at the Pines Run Service Station pleading for better working conditions.

"Everyone here that hires on at the prison knows the dangers of working in a prison and the environment that we work in, however when management turns there heads to the issues at hand, that's when we have the issues," said correction officer Jared Henson.

Hazelton correctional officers said inmate-on-inmate assaults and inmate-on-officer assaults make conditions dangerous.

Officers point to an attack at a Pennsylvania prison as an example.

In late February at USP Canaan, just east of Scranton, Pa., an officer was killed. According to a press release, Correctional Officer Eric Williams was attacked and killed by an inmate with a homemade weapon.

Officers said a thinning workforce will only increase the danger.

"We're understaffed, and then with the furloughs it's going to be 10 times worse," Henson said.

Picketers said they've been told furloughs linked to the sequester will begin in April and said they want their safety ensured, and management to fix what is already broken.

"The disciplinary process at our institution has completely been dismantled by our administration, giving the inmates back their privileges, and basically creating a lot of chaos amongst the institution," said correction officer Doug Koscianski.

Officials at USP Hazelton could not be reached for comment in time for this report.

The picket was an information picket, federal employees are not allowed to strike.