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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

What it Does  
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
Where Does the Money Go  


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.
Federal Prison Industries (Unicor website)
Prison Activist Resource Center (

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.
Crime pays for US prison companies (Agence France-Presse)
The Department of Justice's Reliance on Private Contractors for Prison Services (Report No. 01-16, Report from the National Institute of Justice)
Quality of Prison Operations in the U.S. Federal Sector: A Comparison with a Private Prison (by Scott D. Camp, Gerald G. Gaes, and William G. Saylor, Office of Research and Evaluation,
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                                                                                                                   
Job cuts for prison staff (PrisonOfficer.Org Forums)
More on Privatization and Money
Up for sale: prisons and prisoners (by Janet Sutherland, Freedom Socialist)
Capital Punishment
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.
Federal Executions (Citizens United for Alternatives to the Death Penalty)
News and Developments - Current Year
News and Developments - Previous Years
Responses to Terrorism (including Military Tribunals and the case of Zacarias Moussaoui)
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.
Racial Disparities in Federal Death Penalty Prosecutions: 1988-1994, prepared by the Death Penalty Information Center at the request of the Chair of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights.
Timothy McVeigh—Oklahoma City Bomber first federal inmate executed since 1963
A glance, a nod, silence and death (by Julian Borger, The Guardian)
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.
Prison Privatization: Past and Present (by Matthew Zito, International Foundation for Protection Officers)
See Controversy Section for more information and background on the privatization debate.
A Guide to Prison Privatization (by Dana Joel, Heritage Foundation)
Prison Crowding
Prison Crowding Research Reexamined (by Gerald G. Gaes, Federal Bureau of Prisons) (PDF)
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.
Federal Prison Industries (by Nathan James, Congressional Research Service)
Support for Act
Federal Prison Industries Reform (U.S. Chamber of Commerce)


Suggested Reforms  
Congressional Oversight  
Former Directors  

Mary Ann Cherry - 6/6/2012 3:04:47 PM              
if you need to request an early release for am inmate who is terminaly ill. do not ask the warden. the gao has investigated the bop prison system, anf the latest report from the is called: gao report reveals multiple ways to end the waste of millions on unnecessary over incarceration!!! in this report, the gao notes, the bop has historically interpreted "extrodinary and compelling circumstances", [for early or compassionate release.],to limited to cases in which an inmate has a terminal illness with a life expectency of 1 year or less. in 2007 the sentencing commission expanded the list of criteria that may could include early release for a terminal illness with no limit of life expectency, a permanent or mental disabily, aging inmates who are unable to take care for them selves, plus today there are many more reasons why a persom can be considered for compassionate release, or release due to extrodinary and compelling circumstances. the warden where your son is, has a boss, everyone has a boss except god. on the u.s. department of justice website, you will find phone numbers and a simple way to file a complaint. the doj incourages people to file compalints against any organizations, that answer to the doj. you wll find bop prisons in the list. in the report it stated that of 89 requests for early release under these circumstances, that were filed from 2009 through 2011, only 55 were approved by the bop director. that director resigned in 2011 after he was caught for drunk driving and speeding. you can contact the new bop director, because he is going to have to answer to the gao, why more inmates aren't released for this exact same issue, and much less urgent issues than yours. you must go outside of the bop prison system, to get help. you can contact your senator, who has the authority to do something about your situation. also your governor can grant an immediate release for your son. do not give up, i'm so sorry that you and your son were more victums of a "broken bop system". the gao has investigted bop, and there are going to be changes, but you need immediate help. you can send a fax to your govenor and your senator. i was recently told your senator is the best person to contact, because he is not just a state offical. good luck,and may god bless you and your son. i would not forget the media, one call to some of your local news t.v stations and you will ususally get enormous help, from them.

twana m henry - 5/28/2012 5:20:51 AM              
i am starting a business for federal inmates that are able to use trulink email services. my business is an electronic email service where i monitor social networking sites and i also prepare these sites if a inmate do not have any social networking sites already where they can connect to old classmates , family , friends , and their children what i do is a send messages back and forth to family frieds and pen pal that they may meet through these sites like facebook, myspace, tagged and so on and what i am trying to find out is how can i get my company brochues inside of these 114 federal prisons and be place on the mailing list with the fbop as a business structure if you can can me some information on how do do this please email me some information at the above email address. thank you for your time twana m. henry

Hazel Johnson - 5/24/2012 10:50:52 AM              
how can you treat human being less than animals in your prisons? my son has lost vision in one eye and is losing it in the other. they are refusing to let him follow your procedures for help. they will not return his bp9 to him in order to continue to follow your administrative process. he is in the lompoc facility in lompoc ca. what kind of people are you all anyway. how can our government spend billions in other countries and abuse their own people. i pay my taxes each year faithfully; but my son may die in an american prison because you treat them less than animals.

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Table of Contents

Founded: 1930
Annual Budget: $5.4 billion
Employees: 36,000

Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP)
Samuels Jr., Charles

Charles E. Samuels, Jr., appointed director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) by Attorney General Eric Holder on December 21, 2011, started at the bottom as a correctional officer (prison guard) more than 23 years ago.

Born circa 1965 in Birmingham, Alabama, Samuels earned his B.S. in Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 1987. Samuels also graduated the Harvard University Executive Education Program for senior managers in government in August 2007. 
Samuels began his career with the BOP as a correctional officer in March 1988. Subsequently, he was selected for positions of increasing responsibility, including Case Manager trainee at the medium security Federal Correctional Institution (“FCI”) in Talladega, Alabama; Case Manager at the medium security U.S. Penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia; Community Corrections trainee and Community Corrections Oversight Specialist at the medium security FCI in Phoenix, Arizona; Unit Manager at the low security FCI for women in Dublin, California; Program Review Division Examiner at the BOP Central Office in Washington, DC; and Regional Correctional Programs Administrator and Executive Assistant for the Northeast Region.
Samuels served as Associate Warden at the medium security FCIs in Otisville, New York, and Beckley, West Virginia, and was named Ombudsman in the BOP Central Office. He was promoted to Warden and served as Warden at the medium security FCI in Manchester, Kentucky (circa 2005), and the low security FCI in Fort Dix, New Jersey (circa 2006-2010). He was named Senior Deputy Assistant Director of the Correctional Programs Division (CPD) on November 2, 2010, and was promoted to CPD Assistant Director just two months later, in January 2011. In that position, Samuels oversaw all inmate management and program functions.
In June 2006, he was appointed to the Senior Executive Service while serving as Warden at FCI Fort Dix.