NewsCovering Colorado


Florence's Federal Prison employees take a stand against working conditions

Florence's Federal Correctional Facility houses some of the county's most dangerous criminals.
Posted at 7:30 PM, Sep 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-30 23:13:39-04

PUEBLO — Employees at Florence's Federal Correction Complex are voicing their concerns over the staff shortage, saying they are noticing an "uptick" in violent behavior inside the facility the more they are overworked.

“We are the forgotten law enforcement," said John Holbrooks, a Correctional Counselor and Union Vice President for Supermax.

Holbrook says he believes the facility has roughly two Correctional Officers per 128 inmates.

"These are not guys that got in for tax evasion these are murders, rapists, stuff and when we have 2 to 128 and we aren’t as alert as we need to be, it’s a major safety issue.”

Holbrook says the facility is roughly 130 Correctional Officers short at the moment, and when a new one is hired, another typically quits.

"This is a problem that has started up in DC, and our regional office. Our HR department here does try to hire, however their hands are tied... If we had direct hire here to where they could hire them on the spot, and get boots on the ground, it would be a lot better."

As a result of having so few workers, protesters say they are required to work mandated overtime and if they do not, they are punished.

Holbrooks says several employees have missed doctor or Veteran Affairs appointments, which are difficult to reschedule.

"They don't take into account what we have going on in our home lives, it doesn't matter to them. Our morale is so bad."

A sign a little girl and her father held during the protests outside of the Florence Federal Correctional Center.

Layth Azzez, a Correctional Officer and the Union Vice President for the U.S. Penitentiary, says he knows of employees needing to use sick days for a "mental health break".

"When I do get home late after a long shift, my kid are so excited talk to me and they want to try and tell me all about their day and the things that are exciting to them, and it's bed time when I get home," said Azzez.

Holbrooks also said the Union has spent $50,000.00 of their own money towards recruitment efforts to bring in new employees, like a social media manager.

News 5 reached out to the facility for comment, but has not received a response.