The U.S. Bureau of Prisons paid more than $2 million in bonuses to top administrators and wardens during the past three years while the agency was confronting persistent overcrowding, sub-par inmate medical care, chronic staffing shortages and a lurid sexual harassment lawsuit that engulfed its largest institution, according to government records and court documents.
The awards ranged from a $7,000 payment last year to a D.C. administrator, to $28,000 to the agency's acting director Thomas Kane, and $25,500 for Deborah Schult, assistant director of the Health Services Division. The bulk of the payments, nearly $1 million, were approved last year and amounted to almost double the combined amounts in the previous two years.
At least nine of the agency's top executives whose payments were approved last year also received similar awards in 2015. And among the biggest recipients last year were four executives who held senior leadership posts at the agency's largest complex in Coleman, Fla., during the course of a sexual harassment lawsuit involving hundreds of current and former female staffers who alleged that prison managers repeatedly failed to protect them from years of horrific sexual harassment and threats from inmates.
A $20 million settlement of the legal action is currently pending before a federal judge.
The bonus payments, especially those approved for top administrators at Coleman, have prompted outrage from staffers and union officials who were instrumental in bringing the legal action on behalf of more than 500 female staffers who were were subjected to sexually-charged threats and abuse during the course of 16 years, according to court documents.
Sandra Parr, a vice president of the national union of prison workers, said the Coleman bonus recipients, two of whom retired in January, were made aware of the deep problems at the prison but "did nothing to fix anything.''
"These people got bonuses off the backs of people who were actually dealing with the predators,'' Parr said, adding that the pool of victims grew so large because top agency officials "chose to ignore it.''