WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) yesterday sent a letter, led by Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), regarding allegations of serious misconduct occurring at Federal Correctional Complex (FCC) Hazelton. The letter was sent to Attorney General Merrick Garland, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, and Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) Director Colette Peters
In their letter, the senators called on the Department of Justice (DOJ) and BOP to immediately investigate disturbing whistleblower reports of abusive treatment of incarcerated individuals and other employee misconduct at FCC Hazelton, and to include United States Penitentiary (USP) Hazelton and Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) Hazelton.
“These reports, combined with public reporting on FCC Hazelton’s dire staffing shortages and proliferation of weapons contraband, paint a grim picture of the institution’s inability to ensure a safe environment for those in BOP custody and employees alike,” the senators wrote.
The senators’ letter goes on to detail legally protected allegations that whistleblowers disclosed to their offices, some of which are corroborated by public reporting, including:
- A group of inmates escaping from the prison camp and supervisory staff attempting to cover it up.
- Supervisory staff at FCC Hazelton falsifying documents, encouraging inmate abuse, and covering up alleged abuse and escapes of incarcerated individuals. The falsified documents include medical assessments, incident reports, duty rosters, and time and attendance sheets, along with requests to tamper with corresponding security cameras to cover up inmate escapes. The employees engaged in these practices have not been disciplined, and, in some cases, received promotions, despite open investigations into their misconduct.
- Staff members using restrictive housing punitively against incarcerated individuals in violation of BOP policy, and staff engaging in a pattern of physical abuse of inmates residing in Special Housing Units (SHU).
- Staff repeatedly directing racial slurs against minorities towards other staff members and incarcerated individuals.
- Staff urinating on prisoner property.
- Staff forcing incarcerated individuals to urinate and defecate on themselves as a condition of being released from restrictive custody.
- Staff assaulting an incarcerated person, breaking the individual’s ribs.
“If these allegations are true and accurate, they reflect a rampant culture of abuse and misconduct at FCC Hazelton. We request that you conduct a full investigation of employee misconduct at FCC Hazelton facilities, including interviews of individuals incarcerated in SHU about these allegations,” the senators continued. “We also request that you commit that no taxpayer money will be used to identify, expose the identity of, or retaliate against any whistleblowers and that the anonymity of all individuals interviewed is maintained, regardless of whether or not they corroborate any allegations of misconduct.”
The senators’ letter concludes by asking that DOJ and BOP provide specific information related to FCC Hazleton to understand the scope of the alleged misconduct.