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AFGE Calls for Removal of Thomson Prison Warden Alleging ‘Rampant Sexual Assault and Misconduct’ at Thomson

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The American Federation of Government Employees is calling for the removal of the Warden of Thomson Prison amid allegations of ‘rampant sexual assault’ by prisoners against Thomson correctional officers. In a release to the media on Thursday, the AFGE which represents Correctional Officers and Staff across the country, claimed 321 incidents of Sexual Misconduct by inmates against Thomson staff. Many of the incidents involving inmates exposing themselves to staff or masturbating in front of staff members.

“Our union has raised repeated concerns about this persistent pattern of abuse, but nothing has been done in response,” AFGE National President Everett Kelley said. “Employees are being subjected to this criminal behavior repeatedly yet are getting no support from their employer in putting an end to this cycle. This failure of leadership must be addressed.”

AFGE local 4070 represents workers at Thomson Prison and have sent a letter to the Department of Justice as well as members of Congress as part of an effort to remove Thomson Prison Warden Thomas Bergami claiming that Bergami has refused to act on complaints by members of the Thomson staff, complaints that include sexual assaults of employees by inmates that go unpunished.

“These incidents create a hostile and unsafe workplace for correctional officers and staff, and the failure of prison management to protect its employees is deeply disturbing,” said AFGE District 7 National Vice President Jason Anderson, whose district includes federal employees working in Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

While toxic leadership adversely affects any organization, it is most destructive in the public sector – deteriorating employee morale, eroding public trust, negatively affecting recruitment and retention, and in this instance directly threatening the safety of all employees, AFGE Council of Prison Locals National President Shane Fausey said.

“In recent months, the actions of the warden of USP Thomson demonstrates a culture of indignity, rampant sexually abusive behaviors towards employees, and unsafe prison conditions,” Fausey said. “Ineffective discipline, or the absence of effective disciplinary responses to the most egregious offender misconduct, breeds an atmosphere of resentment and hostility, permits a continuation of criminal conduct, and emboldens the most deviant offenders to an escalation of more violent behaviors. Before an employee is seriously injured or killed, we call upon the senior leadership of the BOP to immediately intervene in the toxic leadership of USP Thomson and effectively protect the employees, by any means necessary.”

The new call for Bergami to be removed follows a similar request by the AFGE in July of 2022. In that call for Bergami to be removed there was no mention of sexual misconduct or assault, though the letter did call attention to ‘serious incidents’ at Thomson Prison that Bergami was failing to address. That letter claimed that not only was Bergami ignoring the complaints of Thomson Correctional Officers and staff, but also alleged that Bergami actively worked against complaints by deflecting blame, and using retaliatory tactics against staff who attempted to blow the whistle on misconduct at Thomson Prison.

The Federal Bureau Prisons visited Thomson Prison in August of 2022 and spent a week at the facility evaluating the leadership with promises of a report to be filed. As of this writing, there is no online record of any final report from the Bureau of Prisons regarding Bergami or Thomson Prison. WKEI has reached out to the AFGE for further comment regarding this latest call for Bergami to be removed and we are waiting for a response.

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