The federal government shutdown is patently unfair to government workers on many levels. It is almost equivalent to robbing the bank from which they receive their funds. It deprives them of needed funds to live while some are expected to work in mandated federal jobs without pay.

(The U.S. Office of Personnel Management) says there are 74,000 federal civilian employees in Georgia, and I assume these are working without pay or furloughed without pay. If they cannot pay for certain items like mortgages or car payments or credit card payments, they may get poor credit ratings and that is a negative when reissuing their security level.

But I want to talk for a minute about the Atlanta Penitentiary where I worked as a staff chaplain from 1990 to 1999 and retired. I found the Atlanta Penitentiary staff to be the bravest, most highly professional, hard-working, out-of-sight, out-of-mind, overworked, understaffed, employees I have ever worked with in 29 years of local jail, state department of corrections and federal parole and prison work. They walk into a penitentiary, a detention center unit of transitional inmates, and a prison camp every day with hazards, difficult inmates, (Federal Bureau of Prisons) regulations, policies and requirements that make them live to the highest standards in the field of corrections. They protect us from inmate escapes, protect inmates from each other, and create a safe prison environment to feed, house, clothe and rehabilitate the offenders in their custody.

Actions have consequences. Whether or not a wall is needed is up to the White House and Congress to decide independently of whether or not 800,000 federal employees get paid. All Americans know border security is important, but the wall should not be paid for by hurting federal employees or holding them as pawns or hostages.

I pray for an acceptable compromise that allows for reasonable border security which will break the shutdown impasse and allow the government employees to get paid.


The Rev. B. Bruce Cook

Retired Bureau of Prisons chaplain



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