Hiring changes expected to ease staffing issues at FCI Hazelton

The federal Bureau of Prisons is changing its hiring process, which could help relieve staffing shortages at the Hazelton Federal Prison in Preston County.  

The change comes more than a year after protests and pickets were held due to increased safety concerns for officers and inmates because of staffing issues at Hazelton. There are currently believed to be 90 job vacancies at the prison. 

 The BOP now allows for hiring at the local level.  

American Federation of Government Employees Local 420 President Justin Tarovisky said before the change all hiring was done through the BOP headquarters in Grand Prairie, Texas. That process allowed top officials to disqualify candidates for minor clerical or form errors during the application and interview processes.  

“It sounds like it’s common sense but something that has needed to happen has finally happened and right now we have to see the results,” Tarovisky said.  

Before the change, candidates were not provided with an opportunity to clarify or make corrections when problems were encountered. Tarovisky said it’s  frustrating when people are qualified to perform a  difficult job and are ready to accept the responsibility but are rejected because of a form-related issue.  

“That doesn’t mean you’re plagiarizing; that doesn’t mean you’re flagrantly putting in disinformation,” Tarovisky said. “It means you’re you, and you might have made a mistake on your application, but it doesn’t mean it’s not true.” 

Keeping the process local will avoid long delays in the evaluation of the applications as well. The staff at the local hospital understands better guard shortages and the urgency to fill the positions.  

“Instead of it being kicked back and having to go through the whole application process again, it’s like, hey, change this up so we can get this ball rolling so our feet aren’t stuck in the quicksand for four or five months, so we can get this fixed.” 

More than a year ago, Tarovisky, local union members, and union representatives from across the country held a picket at Pierpont Plaza near Morgantown, calling for change. The calls for change didn’t stop, and Tarovisky said members of management wanted the same change but weren’t able to express that viewpoint. 

“Unfortunately, this is the kind of battle I and many others, not only bargaining unit employees but managers within the BOP, aren’t happy with it; they aren’t coming out with a sign standing next to me, but I know how they feel, and we got it changed.” 

The shift is  starting to be felt, as signaled by a hiring event at Hazelton and new leadership. Under new leadership, at least seven candidates are moving through the hiring process.