BERLIN —Approximately 200 federal inmates are being transferred to the federal prison in Berlin as a result of President Joe Biden’s decision to phase out the use of private prisons.
Aaron Posthumus, executive assistant at the Federal Correctional Institute-Berlin, said the prison is absorbing about 200 inmates that were being held at a private prison in Texas. For security reasons, he said the Bureau of Prisons does not provide specific transfer plans.
Posthumus said the Bureau of Prisons “houses many inmates in low security, privately contracted, correctional facilities. After determining that sufficient bed space exists for inmates in the BOP’s own facilities, and therefore additional bed-space will not be needed, the BOP decided not to exercise a contract renewal option for some of these private facilities.” He said all inmates are transferred to facilities commensurate with their security needs.
Posthumus said there are currently a total of 741 inmates at the men’s prison. When it opened in 2012, the capacity of the prison was reported as 1,152 medium security inmates and 128 minimum security inmates.
Posthumus stressed that inmates being transferred to Berlin are not Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees.
He also said all inmates entering or departing the Berlin prison are screened and tested for COVID-19 and placed in quarantine or medical isolation for at least 14 days and tested a second time before being released into the general population. If an inmate tests positive, he is placed in medical isolation until cleared by medical staff. Inmates are treated in-house unless medical staff determines they need hospitalization.
The prison experienced a major COVID-19 outbreak last month with over 170 inmates testing positive.
As of Monday, the bureau reported 18 inmates and six staff testing positive.
Asked if the prison had sufficient staff to handle the additional inmates, Posthumus said the BOP is actively recruiting correctional officers and has been for several years. He said the starting base salary for a correctional officer is $43,495 with full benefits including early retirement.
He said the bureau is offering 10 percent recruiting, retention, and relocation incentives. People interested in working at the federal prison can call (603) 342-4056.
Biden signed an executive action on Jan. 27, directing the Department of Justice not to renew existing contracts with private prisons. A paper released by the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics last October, said in 2019 there were an estimated 27,400 federal inmates in privately operated facilities or 16 percent of all federal inmates.
Reporter Edith Tucker contributed to this article.