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Many Federal Prison Workers in Central Florida Won’t be Able to Pay for Mortgages or Childcare if Government Shutdown Continues


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Workers are going without pay at the Coleman Federal Correctional Complex, which includes two high security penitentiaries that house people who have committed violent crimes. Photo: Flickr Creative Commons

Workers are going without pay at the Coleman Federal Correctional Complex, which includes two high security penitentiaries that house people who have committed violent crimes. Photo: Flickr Creative Commons

The partial government shutdown means more than 1200 federal prison workers at the Coleman Federal Correctional Complex in Sumter County are going without pay. That includes two high security penitentiaries that house people who have committed violent crimes.

AFGE local 506 union President and Coleman GED teacher Joe Rojas says exempt workers range from secretaries to wardens, who perform essential services at the prison. Rojas is worried they will either stop showing up to work because they can’t pay for gas or they will quit their jobs completely.

This is problematic as the  prison is already short-staffed after a hiring freeze and a round of layoffs.

“All these gang members that we have here, we have MS-13, we have the Bloods, the Crips, the Suranos, the Latin Kings. They’re not here in federal prison for singing too loud in the choir. And if you don’t have enough staff, what’s going to happen?”

He says he’s starting to emails from worried exempt workers about how they’re going to pay for mortgages, childcare, even chemotherapy if the shutdown continues for another few months. His own family has had to consider going to a local food bank.

“I mean I just never thought about in my wildest dreams that I would have to worry about a food bank for my family. Knowing that I’ve been doing this for going on 24 years. I’m forced to work for free cause I can’t get a second job. I’ve got to do my 8-10 hours here before I can do a second job.”

In a statement, the Federal Bureau of Prisons says exempt workers should expect back pay, “for the work performed after Congress passes and the President signs a new appropriation or continuing resolution.”

Coleman employees oversee more than 7500 inmates at five facilities in Sumter County. In two high security prisons, they oversee criminals like Winter Hill gang leader Whitey Bulger and disgraced USA Gymnastics team physician Larry Nassar.

If you’d like to listen to the full story, please click on the clip above.


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Danielle Prieur

About Danielle Prieur

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Danielle Prieur grew up listening to her grandfather’s stories of swimming across the Detroit River from Canada and many other adventures. She’s been into storytelling ever since. She studied journalism at Northwestern University. She covers local and breaking news and is a backup host for "All Things ... Read Full Bio »

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