Sunday, May 29, 2005

Poisons in the penitentiary

The top safety official of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Steven Tussey, has resigned suddenly "to pursue some safety consulting work." Translation: he didn't jump. He was pushed.

The resignation, after just three years on the job, comes in the midst of a system-wide review of toxic contamination from seven prison computer recycling enterprises.
This spring, Leroy Smith, the safety manager at Atwater Federal Prison, a maximum-security institution located just outside of Merced, California, went public with documents that inmates using hammers for breaking computer terminals down to components parts for recycling are also spewing particles of heavy metals, such as lead, cadmium, barium and beryllium, over themselves and civilian prison staff. The factory at Atwater also provided an open food service in the contaminated work areas.

Now, safety officials at the Federal Correctional Institution at Elkton (Ohio) are raising similar red flags about their facility’s computer recycling operation. Filters coated with lead dust have been routinely been handled by untrained staff and improperly stored in open bins. Neither staff nor inmates were warned of dangers of direct exposure to the toxic dust that coated their hair, skin and clothing every day.


Besides Atwater and Elkton, five other federal prisons have similar computer recycling plants: Ft. Dix (NJ), Lewisburg (PA), Marianna (FL), Texarkana (TX) and Tucson (AZ). The Federal Bureau of Prisons is part of the U.S. Department of Justice, headed by Attorney General and former White House Counsel, Alberto Gonzales.
Ah, yes, Torture Man, now head of one of the world's largest prison systems. Not unexpectedly, allegations of prisoner mistreatment are not a very high priority and the Attorney General's investigation is not exactly moving with alacrity. But the main thing has been accomplished. No one was held accountable.