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DOJ OIG Releases Evaluation of the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ Policy Development Process

Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz announced today the release of an evaluation of the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) policy development process. The BOP has dozens of outstanding policies that are currently in development, some of which have been stalled for years. These policies include stronger measures to prevent introduction of contraband into BOP institutions, protocols for safer use of single-cell confinement in restrictive housing, better support of inmates who use electronic medical devices, and improved inmate release preparation programs.

The DOJ Office of the Inspector General (OIG) found that, while the BOP has taken recent steps to improve its policy development efforts, additional action is needed to improve efficiency and effectiveness.

The OIG’s findings included the following:

  • The BOP’s National Policy Negotiation Process Alone Does Not Meet the BOP’s Need to Timely Implement New and Revised Policies that Address Urgent and Emerging Correctional Issues. As of May 2022, the BOP had 94 program statements that have not been updated in at least 20 years and 24 OIG recommendations that as of August 2022 have remained open for an average of nearly 4 years due to policy development challenges, stalling needed corrective actions to address a range of important issues.
  • The BOP’s Labor Contracts Include Provisions that Enable Inefficient and Costly Bargaining Practices. The BOP’s labor contracts call for the BOP to conduct 3-day in-person policy negotiations with up to 10 union officials at alternating sites across the country while absorbing the travel-related costs for all parties. Due to the BOP’s contractual obligations to its national union, we estimate that the BOP could spend approximately $2.3 million, without adjusting for inflation, in solely travel-related policy negotiation expenses over the next decade. Additionally, in November 2021, the DOJ OIG issued a Management Advisory Memorandum to the Director of the BOP on the impact of the failure to conduct formal policy negotiations with the union because of a stalemate over whether negotiations would be held in person or virtually.
  • The BOP’s Data Collection on Policy Development and Negotiation is Insufficient. The BOP does not collect and track sufficient data to evaluate its policy development and negotiation performance and determine best practices. For instance, about 82 percent of the program statements we examined in the BOP’s policy tracking system had important data missing.

The OIG made five recommendations to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the BOP’s policy development process. The BOP generally agreed with all of the recommendations.

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