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Arbitrator finds Yazoo County federal prison guilty of violating civil rights

By Biancca Ball

YAZOO CITY, Miss. (WJTV) – An independent arbitrator found the management at the Bureau of Prisons Federal Correctional Center Yazoo City in Mississippi guilty of violating the civil rights of the American Federation of Government Employees’ (AFGE) local president at the facility.

Arbitrator Ed W. Bankston said the management at the federal prison also willfully retaliating against AFGE Local 1013 President Cyndee Price in violation of the union contract.

Bankston ordered the agency to pay Price overtime pay for the 1,080 hours of union work she performed on her own time that should have been performed during duty hours under the approved contract and past practice. Price was also awarded $300,000 in compensatory damages, as well as attorney’s fees and expenses.

“I’m grateful for this arbitration decision and affirmation of all the mistreatment, harassment, retaliation, and discrimination I have endured,” Price said. “However, for true justice to occur, the Bureau of Prisons must hold accountable the management officials who targeted me.” 

In 2020, Price was the first Black woman elected to serve as the local union president at any Federal Correctional Complex in the nation.

According to Bankston, prison wardens prohibited Price from using 100% official time to perform her union work on behalf of the 700 employees represented. Officials said previous Local President Vincent Kirksey had been granted 100% official time for the past seven years, and male local presidents at other Bureau of Prisons facilities also are on 100% official time.

Price filed a grievance against the agency, but Bankston said the Bureau of Prisons regional director who received the grievance rejected it, claiming the grievance was improperly filed. The arbitrator rejected this argument.

After being informed by Price about the incident, Congressman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) sent a letter to the Justice Department requesting an investigation into those violations and allegations of sexual misconduct, safety violations, inmate health issues, and illegal staff searches occurring at FCC Yazoo City.

U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith’s (R-Miss.) office also reached out to the Justice Department Office of the Inspector General regarding the allegations.

According to AFGE, the union is unaware of any steps the department has taken to hold accountable those responsible for the alleged misconduct and Price’s mistreatment.