Holder 'Averts' Furloughs? More Like He Was Under Pressure to 'Find' the Money to Prevent Them, Despite Sequestration

The headline at the Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press, seems to make Attorney General Eric Holder look heroic: "Holder averts furloughs of prison staffers." No, all he did was get forced into prioritizing how he should allocate resources in a department where spending grew from $26.54 billion in fiscal 2008 to $31.16 billion in fiscal 2012, a 17% increase.

The AP's Pete Yost did his part to make Holder seem heroic, and, as will be seen later, avoided mentioning one probably major motivator (bolds are mine throughout this post):


Attorney General Eric Holder says he has averted daily furloughs of 3,570 federal prison staffers around the country, moving $150 million from other Justice Department accounts to stave off a serious threat to the lives and safety of correctional staff, inmates and the public.

Some 38,000 employees at the U.S. Bureau of Prisons supervise 176,000 inmates at 119 institutions, ensuring security and providing prisoners with needed programs.

In a memo Friday to all Justice Department employees, Holder said that congressional passage of a spending bill keeping the government open through the end of September provides no relief from $1.6 billion in Justice Department budget reductions that already took effect.

Holder's memo did not say which department agencies were tapped for the $150 million and spokeswoman Nanda Chitre declined to comment on that question Saturday.

Holder said the cuts still raise serious issues.

According to a report at the Luzerne County Citizens' Voice in Pennsylvania by Bob Kalinowski and Michael R. Sisak, Holder's action was really a defensive response to the murder of a prison guard:

Prison guard furloughs blocked

Correctional officers and other employees of the federal Bureau of Prisons will avoid the mass furloughs looming for government employees under automatic budget cuts this month, according to a Justice Department memorandum obtained late Friday by The Citizens' Voice.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in the memo that he transferred $150 million of department funds to the Bureau of Prisons to maintain current staffing at its facilities through the end of the fiscal year in September.

Holder's decision came just three weeks after an inmate murdered Correctional Officer Eric Williams at the high-security United States Penitentiary at Canaan, in Wayne County.

After the Feb. 25 attack, Williams' colleagues and union officials warned that the already unsafe working conditions at federal prisons would deteriorate further if the planned furloughs were implemented. Holder delivered a eulogy at Williams' funeral and told mourners the 34-year-old Nanticoke native's death would not be "in vain."

The loss each day of thousands of correctional officers and other staff at the bureau's 119 federal prison facilities "would have created serious threats to the lives and safety of our staff, inmates, and the public," Holder wrote in the memo Friday to Justice Department employees.

The Citizens' Voice broke the news of Holder's decision on its website, citizensvoice.com, at 3 a.m. Saturday.

If the Voice's claim about breaking the story is correct, the AP failed to give credit where due over an internal communication the Voice first obtained. Such failures occur all too often at the self-described Essential Global News Network.

Letting the furloughs begin after the murder of Williams could have been a potential PR disaster for the attorney general. How nice that Yost covered up a very likely reason, perhaps even the only reason, for Holder's move.

If Holder is looking for some places to cut, I have at least three suggestions. First, get out of the business of suing states over voter-ID laws which the Supreme Court has already ruled are constitutional. Second, drop the lawsuit against the state of Arizona over investigating immigration status during police stops. Third, rein in the Justice Department's out of control Civil Rights Division, whose mission seems to be to invent racism against minorities where none exists while thwarting efforts by white discrimination plaintiffs whose cases appear to be legitimate.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.