Pay delayed, but shutdown has no affect on prison work

Its business as usual at the federal prison in Elkton, despite the partial government shutdown. However, the guards and other staff are not being paid. (Salem News file photo by Patti Schaeffer)

ELKTON — Among the federal employees deemed “essential” are the 315 who work at the federal prison in Elkton.

The prison is home to 2,470 inmates, and the corrections officers and other staff there are required to continue to show up for work even though the ongoing federal government shutdown means they will not get a pay check on Friday.

The facility continues to “operate under normal operations and no services have been disrupted,” according to a prison spokesman.

The partial government shutdown, which affects about 25 percent of the federal government, began on Dec. 22 after Congress failed to pass a spending bill because of President Trump’s insistence that $5.7 billion be included for a border wall. Of the 800,000 federal employees working for departments affected by the shutdown, 420,00 provide essential services and are required to continue to show up for work, even if they are not paid until the shutdown ends.

Essential federal workers are those whose jobs involve public safety. Besides the prison system, the list includes such agencies as the Federal Aviation Administration, the Transportation Security Administration, Border Patrol and other immigration enforcement personnel, and law enforcement.

Some of the employees at the federal prison interviewed by local TV stations said they did not feel it was right they were being made to work under these conditions, including up to 16 hours per day. On Tuesday U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan met with the warden and some corrections officers to talk about the situation.

According to the paper’s news partner, WKBN First News, Ryan assured workers they will be paid, and he also asked local banks and credit unions take to into consideration any financial hardships the shutdown might create for employees.

Ryan’s district does not include Columbiana County, but he likely has some constituents from Mahoning County who work at the prison. The congressman for the county is U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, who told WKBN on Monday he supports the president’s approach to border security and it is unfortunate some legislators are letting their animosity toward Trump get in the way.

“(It’s) sad that this has become politicized and our nation’s security is being politicized,” Johnson said. “Put politics aside, fund the government, get border security and let’s move on with our life.”

Meanwhile, the union representing the federal employees being made to work without pay until the shutdown ends have filed a lawsuit challenging the law that allows this.