BRUCETON MILLS, W.Va. (WBOY) — Amid the “dire staffing shortage” at Federal Corrections Center Hazelton in Preston County, Sen. Joe Manchin is calling on the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to help fix it.

In a letter sent Thursday, Nov. 2, Manchin (D-WV) called on the BOP to approve at 25% retention incentive bonus for all FCC Hazelton staff in good standing. Citing data from the BOP, Manchin said that Hazelton has had 100 vacancies or more throughout the year in 2023—averaging between 70-85 corrections officer (CO) vacancies and 30-45 staff vacancies.

“The dire staffing shortage has created a volatile situation threatening staff and inmates alike. I am particularly concerned about the high amount of CO vacancies. An absence of qualified COs has resulted in a reliance on augmentation, a practice in which non-CO staff, such as counselors,
plumbers, cooks, and teachers, are required to work as COs. This is an extremely dangerous practice putting untrained staff in threatening situations,” Manchin said in the letter.

Back in September, Manchin and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, among other senators, sent a letter to several officials asking for an investigation at Hazelton after a whistleblower alleged escapes and abuse at the prison. In October, a new hotline was created by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of West Virginia for former inmates to report instances of abuse and assault.

Since then, the BOP has waived the maximum entry age for COs at Hazelton, allowing new COs to apply up until the age of 40.

Manchin claims that an added 25% retention incentive would “reduce attrition and augmentation, allowing BOP to continue the difficult process of raising staffing levels back to

He also pointed out that similar incentives have been approved at other prisons. Last month, 25% retention bonuses were approved for eight other federal prisons that were considered “severely understaffed,” according to the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE).

“As you work to advance BOP’s mission of protecting staff and inmates, I respectfully request that you approve a 25 percent retention incentive for all FCC Hazelton staff in good standing as soon as possible,” Manchin concluded.

The full letter is available here.