Union calls for change of leadership at Thomson prison

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The union representing prison workers at the federal high-security penitentiary at Thomson has called for the removal of the warden, asserting a failure to address sexual misconduct by inmates against employees.

The American Federation of Government Employees made the appeal about three weeks after U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, brought up the union’s reports of incidents at Thomson during a meeting with Colette Peters, director of the Bureau of Prisons.

Colette Peters, director of the Bureau of Prisons, meets with U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, in a meeting in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 14.

“Our union has raised repeated concerns about this persistent pattern of abuse, but nothing has been done in response,” said Everett Kelley, union’s national president. “Employees are being subjected to this criminal behavior repeatedly yet are getting no support from their employer in putting an end to this cycle. This failure of leadership must be addressed.”

According to the union, there were 321 incidents of inmates engaging in sexual misconduct against staff last year.

AFGE Local 4070 President Jon Zumkehr said in a news release that leadership has had opportunities to address the incidents but hasn’t.

“Imagine working up the courage to speak up about these incidents yet being ignored by those in charge,” Zumkehr said. “The lack of response from management has only emboldened inmates, and we are very fearful the next attack will be physical.”

Thomson prison houses 667 inmates in its high-security section, according to information on the Bureau of Prisons website. It also maintains a minimum security camp that has 131 inmates.

During the Dec. 14 meeting with Peters, Durbin said he would be “watching for change” when it comes to several issues, including reports of staff and inmate misconduct.

A prison guard patrols the exterior of the Thomson prison during Senator Dick Durbin's press conference on Friday, July 8.
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