UNICOR under fire again
By Henry Leineweber, Resource Recycling
The Bureau of Prisons is under fire again for its Federal Prison Industries electronics recycling program (UNICOR).
The Council of Prison Locals – part of the American Federation of Government Employees union – sharply criticized the BOP for its slowness in implementing the worker safety recommendations made by the Department of Justice's Office of the Inspector General in a report last year.
"This is a critical situation that must be addressed," read a statement by John Gage, AFGE president. "We're calling on the attorney general to make certain BOP implements the full recommendations of the Justice Department."
The recommendations in question were made following an investigation that revealed UNICOR had previously not provided inmate workers or staff with proper training and tools for the safe dismantlement of electronics; not provided safety equipment, ventilation, or hazardous materials monitoring procedures; and willfully ignored safety and environmental concerns made by inmates and staff. This string of bad behavior ultimately led to the suspension of recycling operations at several UNICOR facilities, the dismissal of leadership staff and the OIG investigation.
Final report recommendations included the development of inspection and monitoring checklists, greater accountability for UNICOR leadership and staff, the installation of environmental health and safety equipment and procedures, better compliance with OSHA safety requirements and others.
In addition to these recommendations, the AFGE called for the Bureau of Prisons to hire a neutral certified industrial hygienist to oversee the implementation of the new safety protocols.