Written by Barbara Tetreault
BERLIN – Sequestration will slow the activation of the federal prison in Berlin.
The across-the-board government budget cuts that went into effect March 1 will cap hiring at the prison right now at 251 or about 70 percent of the facility's planned staffing level according to information provided by the office of U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte.
That staffing level will only allow for 500 inmates — less than half the 1,152 medium security and 128 minimum security inmates the prison will house when fully activated.
Currently there are 239 people employed at the prison with 10 additional people starting this week. Of the almost 250 employees, 95 are from the local area. There are 179 inmates, which Ayotte's office said will increase as the months progress.
The prison is funded as part of the continuing resolution passed by Congress last month. That resolution expires at the end of September.
The facility began accepting minimum security inmates last September and was activated to accept medium security inmates this January.
Construction of the $276 million prison was completed in November 2010 but it sat empty for a year before Congress appropriated the money in late 2011 to activate it.
Federal correctional officers have avoided the sequester furloughs facing other government employees. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder initially announced he was able to shift $150 million between accounts to avoid unpaid leave for Bureau of Prison employees. In a memo issued last Wednesday, Holder said his department will not have to furlough any employees this fiscal year due to sequestration.
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