When the Obama administration in recent years has discussed the federal office of the future, it never mentioned converting former jail cells into workspaces.
A jail cell, however, is exactly where the Federal Bureau of Prisons planned to move a whistleblower after she reported malfeasance to the inspector general’s office. The Office of Special Counsel, an independent agency tasked with protecting whistleblowers, said it successfully prevented the bureau from following through with the punishment.
Linda Thomas, a BOP privatization field administrator, was nearly forced to move offices to a converted jail cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago. The new, cozy digs did not even include a computer or a desk, according to OSC, nor were they near other administrative offices. Thomas would have been forced to climb staircases “surrounded by prison inmates” just to get to her space.
The cause of the relocation? According to OSC, the move proposal followed Thomas shedding light in June 2014 on alleged abuse of management authority and a gross waste of taxpayer dollars. In addition to the IG, Thomas raised her concerns to members of Congress and her supervisors at the bureau.
Just one day before Thomas was scheduled to relocate, BOP acquiesced to OSC’s request not to move her. In February, the agency instead relocated her to a new Justice Department facility to her liking.
Thomas was not the only recent victim of BOP retaliation, OSC said. The bureau also attempted to strip responsibilities from Julia Landucci, a drug abuse coordinator in Waseca, Minn. To really prove its point, BOP referred Landucci for a mental health exam.
Landucci’s apparent mental instability was evidenced by her blowing the whistle on employee misconduct “related to the agency’s substance abuse program,” OSC said of BOP’s actions. OSC is still investigating Landucci’s claims.
BOP did not respond to requests for comment. The agency has agreed to institute whistleblower training for new prison wardens, OSC said.
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