Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz announced today the release of a report evaluating the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) efforts to maintain and construct correctional institutions. The DOJ Office of the Inspector General (OIG) also launched a web page with photos and videos documenting the condition of prison cells, cell blocks, and kitchen, dining, and other areas at five BOP institutions (FCI Terminal Island, USP Atlanta, FTC Oklahoma City, CI Taft, and MCC New York). All 100+ of these photos and videos are available for download in high-resolution.
As described in today’s report, the BOP’s institutions are aging and deteriorating: all 123 of the BOP’s institutions require maintenance, with a large and growing list of unfunded modernization and repair needs, and three of these institutions are in such critical stages of disrepair that they are fully or partially closed. The DOJ OIG found that the BOP’s efforts to address these issues were negatively impacted by two major factors: a mismatch between available and needed funding, and the absence of a well-defined infrastructure strategy.
As of May 2022, the BOP’s estimated cost for needed, major repairs was approaching $2 billion. However, our audit found that the BOP’s budget requests have been far below its own estimates of resource needs: for example, BOP sought less than $200 million for its infrastructure needs from Congress in FY 2022, and Congress appropriated $59 million. Consequently, the resources available to address BOP’s maintenance needs are limited, and in many cases, necessary repairs cannot be completed in a timely manner due to a lack of funding. This results in increasingly costly maintenance and, in the most extreme circumstances, having to shutter institutions and relocate inmates due to unsafe conditions.
At the same time, we found that Congress has set aside over $1 billion for the BOP to construct two new institutions, but these funds remain largely unspent, the projects have been in the planning stages for over a decade, and the BOP’s requests each year that Congress cancel one of these projects and rescind the funds—made at the direction of the Department of Justice and the Office of Management and Budget—have not been acted on.
Because the BOP is facing an infrastructure environment where funding needs and resources do not align, it must make difficult decisions about its infrastructure priorities. Yet we found that the BOP does not have a well-defined infrastructure strategy to assist with this process. We believe that such a strategy would improve facilities management by allowing the BOP to approach its planning more comprehensively and allow officials to communicate the BOP’s needs more clearly to relevant decision makers, including DOJ leadership, Office of Management and Budget, and Congress.
The DOJ OIG made two recommendations to improve the BOP’s management of its facilities. The BOP agreed with both recommendations.