Teachers, plumbers, nurses forced to guard inmates at Mendota prison

MENDOTA, Calif. (KFSN) – Behind prison walls at the Federal Correctional Institution in Mendota, staff members say they are being stretched thin.

Like many facilities across the country, a shortage of correctional officers has forced other staff to do double duty.

Aaron McGlothin, Chairman of the FCI Mendota Union, works in maintenance services.

He says that 15 to 22 staff per day are reassigned to work in correctional officer posts.

“We have teachers, we have craftsmen, plumbers, general maintenance people… it’s a process they’ve used all over the country and they rely on it too much and it doesn’t make our prisons much safer,” he says.

Almost one-third of the federal correctional officer jobs in the United States are vacant.

The Bureau of Federal Prisons says that anyone who works in its facilities is a trained, certified correctional worker. Employees will be informed when they are hired to expect to fulfill law enforcement positions.

“If you take so many people away from their regular jobs, you reduce the amount of staff available for an emergency response,” says McGlothin.

Currently FCI Mendota houses 961 prisoners with 261 people on duty.

And the shortage of workers could soon become even more acute.

“It’s not enough. We need more staff as they are constantly opening brand new housing units with the influx of these inmates from the private prisons,” McGlothin said.

Last week, McGlothin and other employees were pecked outside the prison and joined by Mendota Mayor Rolando Castro.

“Our tax money is in that facility and I want to make sure our employees are safe,” says Castro.

According to the union, prison jobs start at about $ 40,000 with retention incentives.

Mayor Castro says the positions should be more competitive.

FCI Mendota will hold a recruiting event Wednesday and Thursday in hopes of relieving the current staff.

McGlothin says he hopes for support from state and congressional lawmakers for even more funding to add prison jobs.

Action News contacted prison officials, who have not yet commented.

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