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‘It’s A Tough Job On A Good Day’: Morale Declines Among Unpaid Prison Officers At FMC Devens02:10
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Congresswoman Lori Trahan speaks with two prison officers from FMC Devens. To her left is Jason Basil, and on her right is David Martinez. (Quincy Walters/WBUR)
Congresswoman Lori Trahan speaks with two prison officers from FMC Devens. To her left is Jason Basil, and on her right is David Martinez. (Quincy Walters/WBUR)
This article is more than 2 years old.

Frustration among unpaid correctional officers at Federal Medical Center, Devens in Worcester County has grown as the government shutdown endures.

With sympathy from inmates also dissipating, the situation is “stressful” and "crazy," two corrections officers told U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan. She sat with the FMC Devens prison officers at a Devens restaurant on Friday.

“A lot of [inmates] are using it to taunt. Just making jokes as you pass them within the prison,” Jason Basil, one of the correctional officers, said. “It’s just a crazy predicament. It’s degrading. It’s a tough job on a good day.”

And it’s become even tougher as morale goes down further for Basil’s nearly 500 unpaid coworkers. Basil, who’s with the American Federation of Government Employees Local 0222 — a union that represents federal employees, said he blames both political parties for the partial government shutdown. The partial shutdown, now 29 days in and the longest in U.S. history, began after Congress refused to fund President Trump's proposed southern border wall.

“They’ve walked away from each other,” Basil said. “And this has become the new way to legislate.”

Democrat Trahan agreed that this is no way to legislate. She accused Trump — who last month said he’d be proud to shut down the government for border security — of using the shutdown as a “cruel negotiating tactic.”

“There should never be a circumstance where we’re tying a government shutdown to a policy debate,” Trahan, who voted to reopen the government several times with the Democratic-led House, said. “I think it’s going to take some courage from the Senate Republicans to say, ‘Enough is enough.’ ”

FMC Devens Correctional Officer David Martinez, president of AFGE Local 0222, said not getting paid is a worry. But he’s also concerned about his safety.

“We’re supposed to have routine training in a number of subjects to keep us up-to-date,” Martinez said. “We get training in self-defense, we get training in hostage negotiation.”

Training that Martinez said isn’t happening.

Basil said that, for now, he has been encouraging coworkers to watch each other’s backs more closely until the shutdown ends.

This segment aired on January 19, 2019.

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Quincy Walters Twitter Reporter
Quincy Walters is a general assignment reporter for WBUR.

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