Nurses, cooks en­listed as guards

Pri­son of­fi­cer short­age puts staffers at risk

USA TODAY US Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Kevin John­son

When Kris­tan Mor­gan joined the U.S. Bureau of Pris­ons three years ago, the 30-year-old nurse ex­pected to spend her days car­ing for the chron­i­cally sick and in­jured in­side the na­tion’s largest cor­rec­tional sys­tem.

What she didn’t ex­pect: Be­ing abruptly plucked from the busy med­i­cal unit in Tallahassee to pull guard duty in cell blocks — in­clud­ing a wing for soli­tary con­fine­ment.

“We get a ra­dio and set of keys, and we don’t know which keys fit which doors,” said Mor­gan, who of­ten re­ports to guard duty in scrubs and run­ning shoes be­cause there are no ex­tra of­fi­cer uni­forms.

Hun­dreds of sec­re­taries, teach­ers, coun­selors, cooks and med­i­cal staffers were tapped last year to fill guard posts across the Bureau of Pris­ons be­cause of acute of­fi­cer short­ages and over­time lim­its, ac­cord­ing to pri­son records re­viewed by USA TO­DAY and staff in­ter­views.

The moves were made de­spite re­peated warn­ings that the as­sign­ments placed un­pre­pared em­ploy­ees at risk. And the prac­tice has con­tin­ued for

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