Office of the Inspector General Seal


Inspections Division

Bureau of Prisons'
Background Investigation
and Reinvestigation Program

Report Number


December 1999





Memorandum to the Director of Bureau of Prisons

Executive Digest



Program Operations and Responsibilities


Pre-Employment Suitability Steps


Procedures For Resolving Derogatory Issues Should Be Followed

Waiver Procedures

Financial Issues


Background Investigations on Probationary Employees


Workload Management Needs Improvement


Most Reinvestigations Have Been Completed

SBIS Database Should Be Corrected


Transferrable Background Investigations Should Be Accepted


APPENDIX I - Scope and Methodology

APPENDIX II - The BOP Personnel Security Process

APPENDIX III - Late Warden Certifications by Region

APPENDIX IV - Timeliness of Adjudications

APPENDIX V - Abbreviations

APPENDIX VI - BOP’s Response to the Draft Report

APPENDIX VII - Office of the Inspector General’s Analysis of Management’s Response


* * * * *

                                          BUREAU OF PRISONS

FROM:                               ROBERT L. ASHBAUGH
                                          ACTING INSPECTOR GENERAL

SUBJECT:                         Inspection of the Bureau of Prisons’ Background
                                          Investigation and Reinvestigation Program,
                                          Report Number I-2000-01                                  

Attached is the final report on our inspection of the Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) Background Investigation and Reinvestigation Program. The inspection, which was conducted at your request, determined whether BOP is in compliance with relevant regulations and whether BOP is managing the background investigation and reinvestigation program in an effective manner.

We sent copies of the draft report to your office on October 18, 1999, and requested written comments on the findings and recommendations. We have attached your November 18, 1999, response as Appendix VI.

On the basis of the written comments we received, we consider recommendation numbers one through six, and eight, resolved and open. Appendix VII explains why the recommendations were not closed and what corrective action is needed for closure. Recommendation number seven is resolved and closed and no further action is required. Please respond to the open recommendations within 90 days of the date of this memorandum. Your response should provide the additional information or documentation requested. If actions are not completed within 90 days, please provide projected completion dates. Guidance on report follow-up and resolution can be found in Department of Justice Order 2900.10.

We hope our recommendations will be useful in your efforts to improve and enhance BOP’s background investigation and reinvestigation program. Please let me know if we can provide you with any additional information. If you have any suggestions as to how we might improve our review process, please let us know.


cc:    Michael W. Garrett
         Bureau of Prisons

         Vickie L. Sloan
         Departmental Audit Liaison Office



The Inspections Division, Office of the Inspector General, at the request of the Director, Bureau of Prisons (BOP), reviewed the BOP background investigation and reinvestigation program. BOP employees are subject to background investigations (BI) before they can be placed in public trust positions and they must be periodically reinvestigated (RI) during their career. This review determined whether BOP is in compliance with relevant regulations and whether BOP is managing its BI and RI program in an effective manner.

The BOP is charged with protecting society by confining federal prisoners. To do this requires that BOP hire and retain employees who can be placed in positions of public trust. Over 99 percent of the BOP's positions are designated as public trust positions because of the duties that BOP employees perform. While this inspection did not focus exclusively on one occupational category, correctional officers comprise the largest portion of the BOP employee population -- approximately 42 percent. It is important that they exhibit a high degree of integrity in the performance of their duties because they have day-to-day contact with federal prisoners.

The BOP's Security and Background Investigation Section (SBIS) was created in 1992 to manage the BOP personnel security program under a delegation of authority from the Department of Justice (DOJ) Security Officer. BOP administers its personnel security program through Personnel Security Units (PSU) located in each region. In the institutions, personnel specialists are responsible for the pre-employment steps for BIs and schedule employees' RIs. After the investigation is completed, the regional PSUs identify and resolve any derogatory issues contained in the investigative report, create personnel security files, and route the files to SBIS. SBIS makes the final evaluation -- called an adjudication -- on whether individuals are suitable to hold positions of public trust in the BOP.

We reviewed a random sample of 247 employees out of 3,993 hired by BOP between October 1, 1995, and October 3, 1997, to determine whether BIs had been performed in accordance with Department and BOP policies and procedures. We further assessed the BI and RI program by examining the personnel security process that was conducted for 36 employees with substantiated allegations of serious misconduct that occurred during their BOP employment. We also reviewed the personnel security files for 11 employees arrested for bribery at one institution to further assess the process.

Overall, we found that BOP is fulfilling its responsibility to conduct BIs and RIs for its employees and that the personnel security program is detecting suitability issues. However, we found problems with pre-employment and adjudication procedures that could result in BOP hiring and retaining unsuitable employees. We also found that SBIS’s database management needs improvement. Finally, we recommend that BOP reexamine its policy of not accepting BIs performed by other federal agencies.

We found that institution personnel specialists allowed newly hired employees to enter on duty before completing all of the required pre-employment suitability steps, such as obtaining credit reports and conducting law enforcement inquiries. Wardens are responsible for certifying that required pre-employment steps have been completed before an employee begins employment. We found that 66, or 27 percent, of the 247 employees in our BI sample were not certified prior to beginning employment.

The BOP’s personnel security procedures allow Regional Directors to recommend waivers to BOP’s “Guidelines of Acceptability” for employees whose backgrounds contain derogatory issues that exceed the guidelines. The guidelines represent the minimum level of acceptable conduct for an employee seeking employment with BOP. The Regional Director waiver process documents the reasons for the waiver. We found that Regional Directors waived the guidelines for seven employees in our BI sample. The issues waived involved financial issues and prior job misconduct. We also found that three employees in our sample had issues that exceeded the guidelines but did not receive waivers. The issues included recent drug use and suspension for unprofessional conduct in a prior job. In one case, the SBIS detected the lack of the waiver but favorably adjudicated the BI without requiring the institution or Regional Director to review the background information to determine whether a waiver should be recommended. We recommended that BOP require the SBIS to instruct the regional office and institution staff to comply with BOP’s “Guidelines of Acceptability” for recommending waivers.

Of the 244 employees with adjudicated BIs in our sample (3 of the 247 employees in our sample had not been adjudicated), 66 had derogatory issues. Of the 66 employees with derogatory issues, 39 had financial issues. We found that it was difficult to determine whether institutions were resolving financial issues before employees entered on duty. Our review of the security files for the 39 employees with financial issues revealed that for 17 employees these issues were discovered during the pre-employment process by personnel specialists at the institutions. We found that the security files for 7 of the 17 employees did not contain documentation showing that the steps taken to determine that the employees’ derogatory financial issues were within BOP’s guidelines. The same derogatory financial issues were revealed in OPM background investigation reports for these 7 employees. We recommended that BOP require SBIS to instruct the regional office and institution staff to document the process for resolution of financial issues.

The BOP was not adjudicating BIs in a timely manner. Sixty-one percent of the BIs in our sample were not adjudicated within the 90-day adjudication standard. Untimely adjudications can create a serious problem if the employee is serving in a one-year probationary employment period. We found that almost 9 percent, or 22 employees, of the 247 in our sample had been employed for one year before their BIs were completed or adjudicated. The procedures for removing unsuitable employees who have completed a probationary period are generally more rigorous than the procedures for removing an employee who has not completed the probationary period. Therefore, we recommended that PSUs more closely monitor the BI status on probationary employees.

The BOP could improve the timeliness of adjudications if personnel security files contained a complete record of actions taken to process the BI or RI and support documentation for these actions. Without this information, SBIS has no assurance that resolution and adjudication decisions by the PSUs and institutions were performed. The SBIS staff indicated that during their final adjudication review they sometimes have to contact the PSUs or institutions to locate missing documents and to determine what actions were taken. We believe that SBIS could process final adjudications more timely if the personnel security files are complete and there is a record or chronological list of actions. We recommended that BOP implement procedures to ensure that adjudication activities at each level of review are recorded in each security file.

Another way the BOP could improve its adjudication timeliness for BIs is by allowing the PSUs to make the final adjudication for BIs that do not have any issues identified in the investigative reports. The cases judged by the investigations as having no issues were rarely found to be deficient by SBIS. Of the 52 employees in our sample that had no issues to resolve, about one-half of them had adjudications that exceeded the 90-day standard. We recommended that BOP consider delegating to PSUs the authority to grant final adjudications on BIs and RIs that have no issues.

The BOP requires that RIs be conducted every five years for its employees. We compared the Department’s Security Entry Tracking System (SETS), SBIS and OPM databases and we found that SBIS databases did not provide accurate information on RIs due. By comparing the SETS and OPM databases on investigations conducted, we found that BOP had completed all but 118 RIs that had been due in FY 1997 and prior. Because the SBIS database is not accurate, we recommended that the BOP conduct file audits to increase the accuracy of its database.

The BOP is conducting BIs on new employees who may not require another investigation. An SBIS official told us that previous BIs conducted by other federal agencies or the military services were not being accepted by BOP. We recommended that BOP review its policies and consider accepting employees' previous BIs that conform to the criteria in DOJ Order 2610.2A.