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Holder Transfers Millions to Protect Prisons From Budget Cuts

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March 25 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Justice Department has transferred $150 million to the Bureau of Prisons to avoid furloughing correctional officers, Attorney General Eric Holder said.

Holder, in a memo to Justice Department employees, said the department would have furloughed 3,570 federal prison employees each day without the shift in funding. That represents more than 9 percent of the approximately 38,000 bureau employees.

“The loss of these correctional officers and other staff who supervise the 176,000 prisoners at 119 institutions would have created serious threats to the lives and safety of our staff, inmates, and the public,” Holder said in the March 22 memo obtained by Bloomberg News.

The Justice Department must cut more than $1.6 billion in the last seven months of the fiscal year from its budget as a result of across-the-board cuts known as sequestration took hold at federal departments and agencies on March 1. Lawmakers on the House and Senate appropriations committees approved the fund transfer, though the government funding bill passed by Congress last week did not provide any relief from the total cuts to the department, Holder said.

“I am deeply troubled by the impact the sequester will have on the Department’s capacity to prevent terrorism, combat violent crime, partner with state and local law enforcement agencies, and protect the judiciary and our most vulnerable citizens,” Holder said.

The Justice Department has instituted “extensive cuts” to travel, training and outside contracts because of the cuts, Holder said in the memo.

He warned that the transfer to protect the prison officers and employees would only last through the end of the fiscal year in September.

“These actions do not address the serious life and safety issues that the BOP faces next year under continued funding at the post-sequestration levels,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Phil Mattingly in Washington at pmattingly@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Joe Sobczyk at jsobczyk@bloomberg.net; Steven Komarow at skomarow1@bloomberg.net

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