Review of the Federal Bureau of Prisons' Disciplinary System

Report Number I-2004-008
September 2004



The OIG conducted this review to assess the BOP's disciplinary system. Specifically, we reviewed whether BOP employees properly reported misconduct; whether investigations were thorough; and whether disciplinary actions were reasonable, consistent, and timely.


We reviewed all BOP employee misconduct cases that were opened or closed in FY 2003. We did not review cases involving contract/halfway house employees, employees at private correctional facilities under contract to the BOP, state or local employees at facilities with a BOP Intergovernmental Agreement, and Public Health Service employees working at BOP facilities.20


Site Visits. We visited the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) and Federal Medical Center (FMC) in Butner, North Carolina, and the FCI in Petersburg, Virginia. At these institutions, we interviewed CEOs (i.e., the Wardens), Employee Relations Specialists, SIS/SIA investigators, and a number of supervisors who acted as proposing officials for disciplinary actions in FY 2003.

Interviews. We conducted interviews with officials in the BOP Central Office, Regional Offices, and institutions. In the BOP Central Office, we interviewed the Director of the Human Resources Management Division (HRM), the Chief and the two Supervisory Special Agents in the OIA, and the Chief and Deputy Chief of the Labor Management Relations and Security Branch. In addition to an on-site interview with the Human Resource Administrator of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Office in Annapolis Junction, Maryland, we interviewed by telephone the Human Resource Administrators in the BOP's other five regions and members of the HR staff in 12 institutions (2 institutions from each of the 6 regions that had the highest number of allegations of employee misconduct in FY 2003). We also interviewed Special Agents and Program Analysts in the OIG's Investigations Division.

Sample Review. From misconduct investigations involving BOP employees closed in FY 2003, we randomly selected 100 cases for review - 50 Classification I cases, 30 Classification II cases, and 20 Classification III cases. Of these 100 cases, we were able to review the OIA or local BOP investigative reports for 85 cases.21 These 85 cases included 206 subjects. We reviewed the investigative files for these 85 cases as well as documents in related disciplinary files of subjects with sustained allegations. An OIG Special Agent also reviewed the investigative case files to assess their thoroughness.

Data. The BOP provided us with data from the LAWPACK database, maintained by the OIA, which contained information on the reporting and investigation of alleged employee misconduct, the conclusion of these investigations, and the discipline imposed. The OIA enters and tracks misconduct allegation and related case file information in LAWPACK. LAWPACK, which the OIA has used since October 2000, contains data regarding the allegation, the subject of the allegation, and case disposition. We used LAWPACK data to analyze the investigations of employee misconduct, including the timeliness of reporting allegations to the proper authorities, the disposition of the investigations, and the consistency of disciplinary actions based on various factors, such as job series or gender.

The BOP also provided us with information regarding the misconduct cases as they proceed through the adjudicative phase. We used this information, including the charges, the case codes, and the proposed and final discipline, to analyze the adjudication of the disciplinary cases, including the timeliness of issuing proposal and decision letters and any changes that were made in the proposed discipline from the proposal to the decision letter.

We also reviewed BOP program statements and manuals regarding the disciplinary system; OIA annual reports; OIG Investigations Division data relating to the BOP's disciplinary system; previous OIG and BOP reports about discipline; and federal and departmentwide laws and regulations applicable to disciplinary systems.

Surveys. We conducted an e-mail survey of a random sample of BOP employees to determine their experience with and perception of the BOP's disciplinary system. Of the approximately 33,600 BOP employees, we sent surveys to 441 and received 275 responses. Appendix II contains confidence intervals regarding these responses. In choosing the respondents' comments included in the body of this report, we chose those that were the most representative of the opinions expressed by the respondents.

We also sent an e-mail survey to CEOs who served as deciding officials in FY 2003 to obtain their views of the disciplinary system. Of the 95 individuals we surveyed, 63 responded.

Finally, we surveyed all 18 OIA investigators by e-mail for their assessment of the investigative phase, including their workload, the monitoring of local investigations, and their training needs. All 18 OIA investigators responded to our survey.


  1. Intergovernmental Agreements are essentially contracts that the BOP enters into with state and local governments to house BOP inmates in their correctional facilities.

  2. We did not review 13 of the 85 cases because they were investigated by the OIG or the FBI, 1 case because it was administratively closed, and 1 case because the subject was not a BOP employee.