Attorney General Eric Holder averts furloughs of prison staff

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorney General EricH. Holder Jr. says he has averted daily furloughs of 3,570 federal prison staffers around the country, moving $150 million from other Justice Department accounts to stave off a serious threat to the lives and safety of correctional staff, inmates and the public.

Some 38,000 employees at the U.S. Bureau of Prisons supervise 176,000 inmates at 119 institutions, ensuring security and providing prisoners with needed programs.

In a memo Friday to all Justice Department employees, Mr. Holder said that congressional passage of a spending bill keeping the government open through the end of September provides no relief from $1.6 billion in Justice Department budget reductions that already have taken effect.

Mr. Holder‘s memo did not say which department agencies were tapped for the $150 million, and spokeswoman Nanda Chitre declined to comment on that question Saturday.

MR. Holder said the cuts still raise serious issues.

“I am deeply troubled by the impact the sequester will have on the department’s capacity to prevent terrorism, combat violent crime, partner with states and local law enforcement agencies and protect the judiciary and our most vulnerable citizens,” Mr. Holder wrote.

“I am still evaluating whether we have the ability to avoid other furloughs in the department this year,” he added, addressing concerns of department employees. “I will do all that I can to minimize the impact of these events on your lives.”

The attorney general said moving the $150 million can protect prison facilities through the end of the fiscal year in September but does not resolve “serious life and safety issues” the Bureau of Prisons faces next year.

Mr. Holder said his department already has required extensive cuts to travel, training, contracts and other accounts.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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