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The Federal Bureau of Prisons'
Control Over Weapons and Laptop Computers

Report No. 02-30
August 2002
Office of the Inspector General



The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) is responsible for protecting the public's safety by ensuring that federal offenders serve their sentences of imprisonment in institutions that are safe, humane, cost-efficient, and appropriately secure, and for reducing future criminal activity by encouraging inmates to participate in a range of programs that are designed to help them adopt a crime-free lifestyle upon their return to the community.  At the end of FY 2001, the BOP employed approximately 33,400 personnel assigned to the Central Office in Washington, D.C., 98 institutions, 6 regional offices, 3 staff training centers, and 28 community corrections offices3 across the United States.

BOP weapons at correctional facilities are pooled in an armory or are located in controlled areas such as towers and perimeter patrol vehicles.  Pooled weapons are made available in an emergency situation or are issued for a specific assignment such as escorting a prisoner outside the facility to a local hospital.  BOP staff do not carry weapons inside a correctional facility unless authorized by the Warden, and the use of personal weapons is strictly forbidden at all facilities. Virtually all BOP employees are trained and certified annually in the use of weapons in a correctional setting. Laptop computers are generally pooled as well although personnel can be assigned a laptop computer for an extended period of time.

As of August 27, 2001, the BOP reported an inventory of approximately 20,600 weapons and 2,700 laptop computers. Weapons used by the BOP include handguns, shotguns, rifles, gas guns, stun guns, chemical foggers, and submachine guns.

The Department of Justice (Department) Security and Emergency Planning Staff (SEPS), a component of the Justice Management Division, maintains records of the number of laptop computers each Department component has authorized for processing classified information. According to SEPS, the BOP has one laptop computer that is authorized to process classified information. Officials of the BOP stated that classified information is not processed on other laptop computers, and that data stored on these other computers ranges from sensitive to non-sensitive unclassified information.

BOP Property Management System

Office of Management and Budget Circular A-1234 requires federal agencies to: (1) establish a management control system that provides reasonable assurance that assets are safeguarded against waste, loss, unauthorized use, and misappropriation; and (2) ensure that transactions are promptly recorded, properly classified, and accounted for in order to prepare timely accounts and reliable financial and other reports. The Justice Property Management Regulations (JPMR)5 require Department components to issue detailed operating procedures to protect federal property against fraud, waste, and abuse.

The BOP guidelines for the management of controlled personal property include Program Statement (PS) 4400.04, Property Management Manual (August 13, 2001); Technical (T) 4401.03, Property Management Technical Reference Manual (August 13, 2001); and T4400.01, SENTRY Property Management Technical Reference Manual (March 15, 2001). Additional guidelines regarding the management of weapons and laptops are contained in PS 1237.11, Information Security Programs (October 24, 1997); and PS 5500.09, Correctional Services Manual (October 9, 1998). According to these guidelines, the BOP employees are responsible for the proper and reasonable care and safeguarding of property assigned to them or located in their work area. An employee whose negligence causes the loss of BOP property may be subject to disciplinary action.

Property Definitions - The BOP has several classifications of personal (non-real estate) property:

Property Management Personnel - The BOP Director has overall responsibility for property management and accountability of all property within the BOP. The Property Management Officer (PMO) who heads the Property Management Section at the Central Office, is responsible for supervising the operation and maintenance of the SENTRY Property Management System (SPMS), maintaining a training program for the Property Officers, acting as a liaison with the General Services Administration (GSA), updating and maintaining property management manuals, and assisting the facility Property Officers in the property management process.

A Property Officer is designated for each BOP facility and is responsible for managing all personal property within the institution (Central Office, regional office, correctional facility, or training center). Property Officers are usually Inventory Management Specialists who have successfully completed a course in property management at the BOP's Management Specialty Training Center. Accountable Property Officers (APO) report to the Property Officer, and are appointed as custodians of property residing in their specific locations within the facility. Training is not mandatory to become an APO, but in general the Property Officer provides instructions and guidance when needed. Each facility has a Board of Survey - a committee that investigates the circumstances surrounding unrecorded acquisitions or the loss, damage, or destruction of personal property to assess liability when warranted.

Automated System - The SPMS is the BOP's official automated system designed to record all controlled personal property transactions, maintain property locations, and provide various property management reports. The SPMS is a mainframe database developed and maintained by the BOP. Access to the system is password protected, and read-only access is available to all BOP employees. Property Officers and select persons in the Property Management Section have expanded access to the SPMS including the ability to input new property records, change or add data to existing records, or run automated reports. These actions are limited to specific computer workstations as an additional security measure.

The BOP uses an automated management system known as the Armory Inventory Tracking System (AITS) at correctional facilities to record specific information about each weapon housed in the facility. The AITS is a stand-alone system that is not associated with the SPMS. This system is capable of providing more detail than the SPMS as to the exact location of each weapon. For example, the AITS identifies weapons that are currently in patrol vehicles, in towers, or in prepared escort kits, while the SPMS lists all weapons as being located in that facility's armory. The SPMS does not need to provide this level of detail for any other property items, and therefore the AITS fulfills a need for expanded oversight of weapons.

Prior Reviews

We did not identify any previously issued external audits or reviews of the BOP's management of property.  Financial statement audits of Department components are conducted annually by independent auditors overseen by the OIG, and express an opinion on whether the statements fairly represent the financial position of each component. In doing so, the independent auditors examine internal controls over financial reporting and test compliance with certain laws and regulations. As such, the auditors examine the property cycle. The BOP's FY 2001 Financial Statement Audit did not note any exceptions dealing with property management.

The BOP's Program Review Division conducts periodic reviews of procurement and property at all BOP facilities. During these reviews, it examines a sample of purchase orders and credit card purchases, reviews warehouse operations, tests inventory items against the SPMS, and verifies documentation of the annual inventory and disposals and transfers of property. The BOP provided information on deficiencies in property management identified during reviews conducted in FYs 1999, 2000, and 2001. In our judgment, none of the identified deficiencies were significant to the BOP's accountability and control of weapons and laptop computers.

Audit Approach

In response to our request BOP provided us with a database derived from the SPMS that identified all laptop computers and weapons that had been "disposed of" 6 by the BOP since FY 1992 up to August 27, 2001. However, prior to FY 2001, the SPMS did not have the capability to distinguish the method of disposal of equipment, such as loss or theft versus donation or destruction. The BOP provided us with documentation of all disposals of weapons and laptop computers that could have been lost or stolen over the period under review. We used this documentation to determine the actual number of items that were lost or stolen from the BOP during that time and the circumstances surrounding each loss.

The BOP also provided us with copies of their semiannual submission to the Department Security Officer that should detail thefts of all property that occurred within the BOP. In addition, a representative of the BOP Office of Internal Affairs (OIA) told us that they were aware of two weapons that had been lost during the audit period. We assessed the BOP's actions to report and investigate the lost and stolen items. Further, we looked for indications that the lost property resulted in physical harm to the public, or compromised national security or investigative information. Our conclusions from the above analyses are presented in Finding I, and Appendices II and III contain a summary of our results.

We also reviewed the BOP's management controls by obtaining an understanding of the SPMS, and of controls over the purchase, receipt and assignment, inventory, and disposal of laptop computers and weapons.  We then assessed these controls by reviewing property management activities at the Central Office and selected field locations. (See Appendix I for a list of locations visited.) At each location, we (1) evaluated general property management controls, (2) reviewed documentation practices, and (3) physically inspected property. We also tested, on a sample basis, the accuracy and completeness of the property records. Finding II includes the results of our analyses, and Appendix IV, Tables 1 through 4 show the geographic distribution of the sampled property.


  1. Community corrections offices oversee community corrections centers and home confinement programs.

  2. Management Accountability and Control (June 21, 1995).

  3. Department of Justice Order (DOJ Order) 2400.3 (August 6, 1998).

  4. The BOP refers to property that is lost, stolen, donated, returned, destroyed, or otherwise leaves the control of the component as "disposed of."