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Keller calls for transparency, accountability and better safety in federal prisons

U.S. Rep. Fred Keller, R-Kreamer, announced the formation Friday of a bipartisan congressional caucus to bring reform in the federal prison system.

Standing with prison employees and area leaders at the Union County Courthouse, he said the federal lockups need to improve accountability, transparency and safety standards.

“The federal Bureau of Prisons is notorious for shortchanging their prisons,” he said. “We will work to address this problem.”

An issue raised by various officials was the recent outbreak of COVID-19 among inmates at the Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary.

Union County Commissioner Preston Boop said the Bureau of Prisons makes decisions such as transferring infected inmates from one prison to another.

“The frustration for us in Union County is it didn’t matter about our concerns to keep our people safe,” he said.

National Council of Prisons Local 33 President Shane Fausey said among the biggest concerns for federal prisons is inadequate staffing.

Unfortunately, too many decisions made by the Bureau of Prisons adversely impact the federal lockups.

He noted the increase in violence, suicides and incidents of contraband among inmates in recent years.

State Rep. David Rowe, R-Mifflinburg, called out the Bureau of Prisons for what he said is its lack of transparency.

State Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Loyalsock Township, said prison reform is a critical issue.

“It’s called lack of transparency,” he said. “I fully support this. I think it will have national implications.”

Keller, noting the Bureau of Prisons operates a $7 billion budget with 172,000 inmates, said he sponsored legislation to stop the transfers of inmates to other prisons during a pandemic.

Union County Commissioner Jeff Reber said his county has done a good job of keeping down coronavirus numbers despite the recent spike in cases.

He blamed that spike on the Bureau of Prison’s decision to transfer infected prisoners to Lewisburg.

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