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Head of union at Thomson federal prison says recent NPR story is misleading & incomplete

Thomson prison
US Bureau of Prisons
Thomson prison

Jon Zumkehr is the President of Local 40-70 of the American Federation of Government Employees. He represents about 450 union workers at Thomson.

NPR's Joseph Shapiro wrote the article with a reporter from the Marshall Project. The headline is, "A warden tried to fix an abusive federal prison. He faced death threats."

Zumkehr says prisoners are the source of the alleged death threats. "It's a common occurrence that happens in a prison when staff do their job. They complain and try to get those good staff removed from doing their job. That's the case here. The inmates complained to the warden that 'Hey, you know these staff want to kill you.' So what did the warden do? He removed the guards. You know, on that again, there wasn't any evidence. That was investigated, and after the investigation there was no evidence."

But Zumkehr says there is documented evidence that former warden Thomas Bergami retaliated against him for whistleblower disclosures. That includes reports about sexual assault and misconduct by inmates.

"The accusations we made against Thomas Beragami -- that he tried to cover up escape of prisoners, that he covered up Fentanyl inside the institution, that he failed to act when staff got sexually were assaulted at Thomson two times in one month, staff got sexually assaulted and didn't care about the staff, didn't do his job that he was ordered to do by the central office of the region. Those were all documented through the regional director, through the director Collette Peters' Bureau of Prisons, and to the deputy attorney general, Lisa Monaco."

A hearing is set for March in Zumkehr's case before the Merit Systems Protection Board, Central Regional Office (see order below). The board is part of the Office of Special Counsel.

In February, more than 700 maximum security prisoners were transferred from Thomson to other federal prisons. Then the Bureau of Prisons converted Thomson to a low security facility. Bergami left his position as warden in July.

Government Thomson Prison
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