Have you driven on Pembroke Road AKA Route 37 in Danbury recently?

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If you have, you may have noticed an alarming billboard right next to Jeffrey's Chinese Kitchen. The Billboard says:

"DANGEROUSLY UNDERSTAFFED FEDERAL PRISON AHEAD ARE YOU SAFE?"

The billboard also encourages people to check out a website that provides more information, but we'll come back to that.

The massive sign is obviously referring to Danbury Federal Correctional Institute, which is right around the bend from this sign if you are headed towards New Fairfield.

Danbury FCI - Photo: Lou Milano
Danbury FCI - Photo: Lou Milano
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That's Danbury FCI in the photo above -- you can just make out the buildings behind the tree line at the top of this hill. Can you imagine prisoners running down this hill towards freedom? How about a few prisoners snaking down the hill, hiding themselves in the trees? That is exactly the picture that is being painted when they ask, "are you safe?"

When I saw the billboard, I immediately knew it had something to do with a labor dispute, but didn't know the specifics. On the surface, it seems to be a scare tactic, but what I know about Danbury FCI can be written on a Post-It note.

When you go to the site, AFGELocal1661.com, the first thing you see is a banner encouraging supporters to gather for a rally being held in Danbury on Wednesday, December 15, at the intersection of Hayestown Ave. and North Street from 9:00 AM - 2:00 PM.

The the AFGE Local 1661 then lays out their case, explaining that the prison is not adequately staffed. The author wrote:

"Nearly one-third of federal correctional officer jobs nationwide are vacant according to the Bureau of Prison's staffing numbers, which show that fewer than 14,000 of the 20,446 officer positions budgeted for 2021 were filled."

The document then goes on to say the following:

"This has resulted in officers working vast amounts of overtime and non-officer
employees including cooks, teachers, and nurses being assigned to work as correctional officers under a process called augmentation.

The severe staffing shortage across federal prisons is endangering the lives of
employees and makes it harder to safely manage inmates.

As the exclusive representative for federal correctional officers and staff, AFGE
locally and nationally is calling on Congress to increase prison staffing levels,
provide recruitment bonuses, and take other steps to address this staffing crisis.

Staffing cuts and a hiring freeze implemented by previous administrations has
reduced the maximum number of employees the Bureau of Prisons can hire to
roughly 75% of the "mission critical" staffing level the agency has said is necessary
to keep officers and inmates safe.

The pandemic exacerbated the staffing shortfalls, resulting in a dramatic increase
in the use of administrative and programming staff to perform critical correctional
officer duties — a practice known as augmentation — as well as requiring officers
to routinely work double shifts two to five times per week, often without prior notice.

The website goes on to say that Danbury FCI officers are subject to "forced overtime." You can read the rest of the information provided here if interested.

Again, I don't know much about the Institution but I know Hat City residents have a natural curiosity about the prison. What if the prison isn't adequately staffed? At minimum the corrections officers would be in serious danger.

Lou Milano
Lou Milano
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This is the plaza the billboard overlooks and below is Halas Farm Market, which is across the street from Danbury FCI.

Lou Milano
Lou Milano
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P.S. This billboard is extremely effective, I'm never on that side of town, I found out by old-school word of mouth.

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