The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) is an agency within the Department of Justice responsible for administration of the federal prison system. BOP is headquartered in Washington, D.C., and currently includes 114 prisons, 6 regional offices, 2 staff training centers and 28 community corrections offices. The agency is responsible for the custody and care of all 200,000 or so federal inmates—85% of whom are incarcerated in government facilities, with the remaining 15% in private prisons. The Bureau is also responsible for carrying out all legally mandated federal executions, and maintains a lethal injections center in Haute Terre, Indiana-- where in 2001, Oklahoma City Bomber Timothy McVeigh was the first federal prisoner to be executed in almost 40 years. In addition to its use of capital punishment, BOP has been subject to criticism over budget and program cuts, privatization and agency contracting practices.
Located within the Department of Justice, the Bureau of Federal Prisons was established in 1930 with a mandate to manage and regulate “all federal penal correctional institutions.” At the time of its founding, the agency’s reach included 11 federal prisons. By the end of 1930, the bureau operated 14 facilities for just over 13,000 inmates—an operation that grew to 24 facilities and 24,360 inmates by 1940.
However, notwithstanding minor changes, the inmate population remained relatively stable through 1980, when the population stood at 24,252. As the operational structure transitioned over time—from large facilities of mixed security levels, to smaller facilities confining inmates of similar security needs—the number of facilities almost doubled.
According to the bureau, federal law enforcement efforts and new legislation in the 1980s dramatically altered sentencing and caused a spike in federal inmate numbers: “The Sentencing Reform Act of 1984
established determinate sentencing, abolished parole, and reduced good time; additionally, several mandatory minimum sentencing provisions were enacted in 1986, 1988, and 1990. From 1980 to 1989, the inmate population more than doubled, from just over 24,000 to almost 58,000. During the 1990s, the population more than doubled again, reaching approximately 136,000 at the end of 1999 as efforts to combat illegal drugs and illegal immigration contributed to significantly increased conviction rates.”
Staffing levels grew concurrently with inmate numbers, from about 10,000 bureau employees in 1980 to just over 19,000 in 1990. Current levels are around 36,000.
Brief History of Alcatraz
The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) BOP consists of 114 prisons, 6 regional offices, a headquarters, 2 staff training centers and 28 community corrections offices. The regional offices and the headquarters are responsible for overseeing and providing support to the prisons and community corrections offices. The community corrections office then oversees community correction centers and home confinement programs. The BOP is also responsible for the care and custody of all 198,294 federal inmates. 85% of these inmates are currently staying in correctional facilities or detention centers. The remaining 15% are staying in private prisons.
Population and Demographics
Total population: 201,117
Total sentenced population: 183,378
Inmates in BOP facilities: 166,001
Inmates in privately-managed secure facilities: 23,046
Inmates in other contract facilities: 12,070
Statistics at a glance:
- 93.3% of inmates are male
- One out of four inmates are not U.S. citizens; the majority of these are citizens of Mexico
- The average inmate age is 38 years old
- 58% of inmates are serving a sentence of 5 years or more
- 53.6% of inmates are serving time for a drug offense whereas .1% are serving time for national security
- 11% of inmates are held in high security prisons
- 50 inmates are under sentence of death
Inmate Matters and Program Links
From the Association of Government Employees (AFGE) Weekly Review, April 7, 2008:
16 Lawmakers Call for More Funding for Federal Prisons
“Sixteen House lawmakers last month sent a letter to the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science urging the panel to appropriate approximately $5.6 billion in fiscal 2009 for the cash-strapped Bureau of Prisons, which is on the verge of cutting thousands of correctional staff positions after years of underfunding. The $5.6 billion – $5.55 billion for the salaries and expenses account and $400 million for the buildings and facilities account – is an increase of about $530 million over the 2008 level. The lawmakers' push for more funding for BOP is a direct result of AFGE's campaign to educate more lawmakers about the urgent need to significantly increase funding for federal prisons. AFGE has been drawing attention to this serious safety issue for years with informational pickets and meetings with lawmakers. Last month, officials from AFGE Council of Prison Locals and AFGE Local 3951 accompanied Rep. Bill Shuster, R- Pa., to tour the Federal Correctional Institution at Loretto, Pa. Shuster said afterward that the tour was an eye-opener and that the government has to make sure prison officers have enough resources to do their jobs. Also last month, on the West Coast, AFGE Local 1102 met with Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., and Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash., to discuss different issues including fiscal 2008 supplemental funding for BOP, which is currently underfunded by $433 million. AFGE is urging its Locals to continue reaching out to their lawmakers to secure enough funding for BOP.”
Department of Justice, BOP and other correctional agencies; Federal Prison Industries, Inc. (FPI or UNICOR); Corrections Corporation of America (CCA, the largest U.S. private prison operator) and the GEO Group; subcontractors for private and government management and builders; prison employees and unions; prisoners and their families; communities where prisons are located.
American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO
Privatization of Criminal Justice
Since the 1980s, expanding prison populations and fiscal constraints have led to increased privatization of the federal prison system, with DOJ agencies including BOP relying on state, local and private prisons to house federal inmates. The government has come under criticism for its contracting practices, which increased the risk of default among private service providers typically contracted for management and construction—thereby increasing security risks. In a 2000/2001 report, the Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) found that the state and local providers consistently overcharged the government, criticized the BOP for relying too heavily on a few private contractors, and pointed to an unstable procurement practice. In response, Congress passed legislation authorizing DOJ to procure private prison services through “nontraditional” or “innovative” agreements—meaning more flexible terms. Under the law, agencies are allowed to procure services independently of traditional government contracting rules.
Federal Bureau of Prisons) (PDF)
Bush’s Budget and Private Contracts
The President’s 2005 budget put a moratorium on BOP’s construction of new prisons—instead providing funding for 4,500 additional “contract beds” in an attempt to bring the contract market up to speed with a burgeoning prison population. Per the budget: “BOP’s total prison population increased by 10 per cent between 2002 and 2003 but its contract population remained largely static. The 2005 request is intended to help reverse this trend. The 2005 budget places a moratorium on new prison construction while promoting more aggressive BOP contracting with state, local and private sector providers.”
More Budget Cuts
“Without consulting federal judges or other members of the legal profession, the Bureau of Prisons decided to close down the Intensive Confinement Center
(ICC) program - a shock treatment camp designed to rehabilitate first-time, non-violent offenders. The announcement was part of a Jan. 5 memo by Prison Bureau Director Harley G. Lappin, announcing several cuts in counseling and rehabilitation programs as cost reduction initiatives.”
Loss of Sales
More on Privatization and Money
In addition to state capital punishment laws, the federal government also uses the death penalty for certain federal offenses. Since its introduction in 1790, 336 men and four women have been executed. In the 20th Century, 16% of federal executions have been minority defendants. (See Race and the Federal Death Penalty
). There were 34 federal executions between 1927 and 1963. In 1972 the Supreme Court ruled that all state death penalty statutes were unconstitutional because they allowed for “arbitrary and capricious application”—a ruling that similarly affected the federal statute. Between 1963 and the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1988, there were no federal executions.
President Clinton commissioned a study from the DOJ to examine the Department’s decision-making process for seeking the death penalty in individual cases—and to collect statistical information on racial, ethnic and geographic distribution of defendants and their victims.
Released in 2000, the study found dramatic racial and geographic disparities, revealing that 80% of the cases submitted for death penalty review in the previous five-year period were for (racial) minority defendants—African-Americans were defendants in more than half of the cases. The report also found that 40% of 682 cases sent to the DOJ for approval were filed by only five jurisdictions.
Timothy McVeigh—Oklahoma City Bomber first federal inmate executed since 1963
Ban on Religious Books
Human Rights Watch Urges Federal Bureau of Prisons Not to Re-Institute Broad Ban of Religious Books
(HRW Letter to Harley Lappin, Director of the US Federal Bureau of Prisons)
Privatization of the Prison System
Background (from 2007 GAO Report)
There has been an ongoing debate over the privatization of prisons, that is, contracting for the management of prisons by private firms, whether the prisons are owned by the private sector or by the government. In particular, proponents of privatization claim it can save money without reducing the levels or quality of service such as safety and security (i.e., levels of safety and security for staff, inmates, and the general public), whereas others have questioned whether privatization is a cost-effective alternative to publicly run facilities. Federal guidance from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) requires that economic and cost comparison analyses be conducted to demonstrate the benefits of privatization, including how it would reduce the government’s long-term costs. BOP’s use of contracting to meet inmate bed space needs at low and minimum security facilities, in particular, has generated significant interest in the comparative costs of confining federal inmates in BOP, private, and IGA facilities.
Prompted by the debate over privatization, previous GAO reports have determined it impossible to compare public and private prisons, and found all previous studies to that effect to be flawed. In 2007 GAO reported that a refusal on the part of BOP to collect certain crucial information - even though it is legally required to do so - makes it impossible to judge whether private prisons cost less or provide better quality.
See Controversy Section for more information and background on the privatization debate.
2005 FPI Legislation
The Federal Prison Industries Corporation (FPI or UNICOR) is a government-owned company that employs inmates to manufacture products and services sold to executive agencies in the federal government. There has long been contention over whether the UNICOR received preferential treatment in the private sector and unfairly competes with small businesses. Legislation in 2003 and 2005 phased out noncompetitive contracting with FPI, in favor of supporting a competitive market for private contracting.
Support for Act
Annual Budget: $5.4 billion
Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP)
Samuels Jr., Charles