Durbin Discusses Staffing Concerns At USP Thomson With Local 4070 Of The Council Of Prison Locals

SPRINGFIELD – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today spoke by phone with Jon Zumkehr, President of Local 4070 of the Council of Prison Locals (CPL), and Brian Mueller, CPL North Central Regional Vice President, about ongoing staffing challenges at USP Thomson and Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) facilities throughout Illinois. Durbin received an update on retention and recruitment efforts at USP Thomson, including the success of direct hiring authority and recruitment incentives and a 10 percent retention bonus for all current staff at the facility. These efforts come after Durbin, along with Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Representative Cheri Bustos (D-IL-17), sent several letters to BOP and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) urging the administrators to consider USP Thomson’s requests to address public health and staffing concerns. In April, Durbin, Duckworth, and Bustos sent a letter asking BOP and OPM to consider USP Thomson for Chicago area locality pay and a 25 percent retention bonus for all correctional officer staff. OPM is still reviewing the 25 percent retention bonus request.


On the call, Durbin also heard concerns about the stalled implementation of the First Step Act and the inadequate policy guidance from BOP on properly implementing the law’s programming requirements. Durbin, Zumkehr, and Mueller also discussed access to COVID-19 testing and the need to increase vaccinations for inmates and BOP staff.


“COVID-19 has jeopardized the health and placed undeniable strain on staff and inmates at USP Thomson. With staffing shortages and unclear, delayed guidance from BOP and OPM, Local 4070 is doing its best to improve conditions and safety for inmates and staff,” said Durbin. “Also, while I am happy to hear that staffing shortages at USP Thomson have improved through the use of Direct Hire Authority and retention and recruitment incentives, I will continue to push BOP to ensure that there is adequate staffing at all facilities throughout Illinois.  Addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and successful implementation of the First Step Act depend on each facility having the staff, educators, and counselors required to meet the facility’s needs.”