New Department of Justice Report on Management and Performance Challenges Facing the FBOP
Date:  11-22-2019

Safety, reentry programming, medical care, and insufficient staffing are just some of BOP's problem areas
From U.S. DOJ Office of the Inspector General:

Maintaining the safety and security of federal inmates and prison employees remains the overriding challenge for the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). However, the specific aspects of that challenge have evolved. For about 20 years, the BOP was managing operations during a period when the inmate population was consistently and substantially increasing. The total federal prison population was about 40,000 in 1985 and it grew to about 220,000 at its peak in 2013, a roughly 450 percent increase. During that period, the BOP faced significant overcrowding across its institutions. However, over the last several years, the number of federal inmates has declined to roughly 180,000.1 As a result, while overcrowding and providing appropriate housing for inmates continues to be a challenge at some institutions, several other important issues continue to merit identification as top management and performance challenges for the BOP. These include challenges related to the physical safety and security of inmates and staff, inmate health and welfare, and aging and deteriorating facilities and equipment.

Physical Safety and Security

The BOP faces significant challenges in ensuring the safety and security of prison staff and inmates due to the introduction of contraband into BOP facilities, deficiencies with its security camera system and inmate monitoring, and insufficient staffing.

Contraband. The BOP continues to face challenges preventing contraband, including cell phones, weapons, illegal drugs, and tobacco products, from being introduced into BOP facilities.2 The OIG is particularly concerned about the challenges to safety and security posed by contraband cell phones. OIG investigations have shown that contraband cell phones in prisons are dangerous weapons. An inmate with a cell phone can carry out criminal activities, including threatening and intimidating witnesses, victims, and BOP staff, and coordinating escape attempts. For example, in 2018, an OIG investigation resulted in a BOP inmate being convicted for, among other things, his role in arranging the murder of a BOP correctional officer using a contraband cell phone. Additionally, the OIG has found that the BOP’s attempts to address this challenge are made more complicated by both external and internal threats. External threats include individuals outside of BOP facilities who attempt to smuggle contraband into prisons using drones or the postal system. The BOP has recently experienced an increase in attempts by individuals, acting in concert with persons within the facility, to use drones to drop caches of cell phones and drugs at specifically targeted locations within BOP facilities. In addition, BOP leadership has identified the extensive use of postal mail containing what appears to be innocuous content to introduce synthetic drugs into prisons. OIG audits and evaluations have shown that the BOP has historically struggled to monitor inmates’ mail and phone communications effectively, which increases safety risks both within BOP facilities and to the public.

Internal threats, in the form of BOP employees who smuggle contraband into its facilities, further endanger staff and inmates. While only a small fraction of the BOP’s approximately 35,000 employees are engaged in introducing contraband, this small group puts both inmates and staff at risk of harm. In 2016, the OIG issued a report on the BOP's policies, procedures, and devices for screening staff, visitors, and inmates for contraband. In the report, the OIG found that the BOP did not effectively implement its staff search policy. Illustrative of the BOP’s need for an effectively-implemented staff search policy is a 2019 OIG investigation that found the then chaplain at Federal Correctional Institute (FCI) Berlin in New Hampshire responsible for smuggling significant quantities of contraband, including illegal drugs, cellular telephones, tobacco, and other prohibited items into the prison in exchange for over $52,000 in bribe payments. The now former chaplain was convicted and sentenced to 40 months in prison. Continue reading >>>