The Federal Bureau of Prisons’ Monitoring of Mail for High-Risk Inmates

Evaluation and Inspections Report I-2006-009
September 2006
Office of the Inspector General

Appendix IV

The Federal Bureau of Prisons’ Response

The text in this Appendix was prepared by the auditee and uncorrected by the OIG.

  U. S. Department of Justice
Federal Bureau of Prisons

Office of the Director

Washington, D.C. 20534
September 19, 2006

FROM:   [signed]
Harley G. Lappin
SUBJECT:   Response to the Office of the Inspector General's (OIG) Draft Report:  Federal Bureau of Prisons' Monitoring of Mail for High-Risk Inmates

The Bureau of Prisons appreciates the opportunity to respond to the recommendations contained in the OIG's draft report entitled Federal Bureau of Prisons' Monitoring of Mail for High-Risk Inmates.

Please find the Bureau's response to the recommendations attached.

If you have any questions regarding this response, please contact Michael W. Garrett, Senior Deputy Assistant Director, Program Review Division, at (202) 616-2099.




Recommendation #1:  The BOP should ensure that all mail of inmates on its mail monitoring lists is read, including translating and reading foreign language mail, and that the institutions' monitoring of this mail is tracked.

Response:  We agree with this recommendation and recognize inmates placed on mail monitoring status should be held to a higher correctional management standard based upon identified risk factors.

As such, written and telephonic communications for these inmates should undergo a review by appropriately trained staff as soon as practical, to ensure the safe and orderly running of the institution and to prevent offenders from engaging in continuing criminal activity during their term of confinement. We are exploring procedural modifications and technology aides that will assist us in developing uniform standards and tracking for proper review and assessment of inmate communications, to include a requirement for timely summary translation of foreign language communications.

We anticipate completion of this initiative by December 2007.

Recommendation #2:  The BOP should set minimum target percentages of incoming and outgoing mail for random reading, including translating and reading foreign language mail, and track the institutions' efforts to comply with these goals.

Response:  We have some concerns with implementing this recommendation.

Based on our correctional experience, we believe targeting high-risk inmates is the most efficient and effective means of intelligence detection. Establishing a target percentage for the random sampling of all inmates' mail will divert critical resources and attention away from monitoring efforts focused on high-risk offenders. Our institution mail rooms receive between 5000 and 15,000 pieces of correspondence per week. The resources (both technological and manpower) necessary to raise the level of random sampling is significant. The volume of inmate communications fluctuates from day-to-day, significantly impacting the institution mail room and SIS operations. While inmates are limited to 300 minutes of telephone use per month (excluding legal consults), incoming and outgoing correspondence, with minimal exception, is unrestricted.

We are currently piloting an inmate messaging system called TRULINCS which allows offenders to communicate with family and friends through use of electronic messaging via a secure workstation. We believe this system, when fully implemented, will greatly reduce the amount of incoming and outgoing mail through the U.S. postal system. Each inmate is permitted to register up to 30 electronic addresses. All incoming and outgoing messages are screened for key words and assessed by SIS staff. If appropriate, the message is uploaded by staff and transmitted via the Web environment to the intended recipient. The system currently allows each message to be indexed for indefinite retention. This process affords our offender population a fast, "real world" communication outlet, while providing the agency with enhanced content monitoring controls. To date, the system infrastructure modifications are in place at 11 BOP facilities. Although still in the pilot stage, wardens and SIS staff report the system has greatly enhanced intelligence gathering efforts. We anticipate this pilot program will continue to be successful, and we will implement Bureauwide at all of our facilities in the next several months.

Therefore, we believe use of this new electronic messaging system coupled with implementation of recommendation 1 will ensure a high percentage of our inmates' mail will be read and/or screened on a daily basis. At this time, we want to delay establishing targets for random correspondence reading/screening until both of these initiatives have been implemented and then deem whether target setting is necessary for the remainder of the mail that is not read/screened. In the interim, our Assistant Director, Correctional Programs Division, will issue guidance to our wardens, mail room, and intelligence staff reminding them of our expectations for random reading/screening of mail. If this plan is acceptable to the OIG, we will provide periodic updates regarding these initiatives.

Recommendation #3:  The BOP should develop a policy for in-house translation services that includes:

  1. Guidelines for when and how translations are to be conducted, (e.g., when word-for-word translation or a summary is required), including translations of communications to and from international terrorist inmates.

Response:  We agree with this recommendation. The Special Investigative Supervisor Manual is undergoing review and revision. The draft includes language for timely completion of a summary translation for all forms of foreign communication pertaining to inmates classified as International Terrorists. Verbatim translation would be further required when a suspicion for cause exists.

  1. Guidelines for the random verification of the accuracy of staff translations;

Response:  We agree with this recommendation. Agency procedures relating to language translation are currently undergoing extensive internal review. During our assessment, we learned that critical language skills are in high demand in Federal Government, particularly with respect to agencies tasked with intelligence analysis. As such, clearance requirements, competency testing, and geographical placement are all mitigating factors in the recruitment of qualified applicants. Foreign language proficiency is routinely cited as a deficit skill in the United States, as competition for these resources has resulted in recruitment bonuses and incentive pay. In the absence of dedicated funding for terrorist management, the Bureau has been severely hindered in our recruitment efforts for hiring qualified staff possessing critical language skills integral to sound correctional management.

We have worked closely with the FBI, Language Services Division, and the International Language Round Table in formulating an understanding of the Language Competency Testing Standards. It is important to note the translator certification standards specifically apply to individuals regularly performing investigatory duties. It is our determination that Bureau staff
working in the institution require a level of language proficiency that would sufficiently allow them to recognize noteworthy intelligence and to refer the information for further analysis. Therefore, the agency may require a level of language competency for individuals working in the institution that differs from that required for full-time translators. We will explore and implement the most appropriate and objective proficiency certification for our staff. In the interim, we have developed a Reimbursable Agreement between agencies for language testing that is pending approval for fiscal year 2007. A work group will be established to determine language competency criteria for Bureau staff serving in either a primary or collateral capacity.

The recommended guidelines will be in place by January 2008.

  1. Guidelines on minimum proficiency levels for volunteer BOP staff who translate communications for terrorist inmates, inmates on mail or phone monitoring lists, or other high-risk inmates;

Response:  See response to recommendation 3.b. above. As indicated above, these recommended guidelines will be in place by January 2008.

  1. Guidelines requiring supervisors to support collateral translation duties, and when work conflicts exists, to seek resolution with the Associate Warden or Warden;

Response:  We agree with this recommendation. A procedural directive will be issued by the Assistant Director, Correctional Programs Division, mandating local support for staff performing approved collateral language translation services.

This directive will be issued no later than December 2006.

  1. Guidelines that require BOP staff who volunteer as translators to track the number of hours and the languages for which they perform translation services as a collateral duty to allow future resource needs to be determined; and

Response:  We agree with this recommendation. Inmate telephone monitoring is automatically tracked through the INTRUDR system. Further consideration will be given for uniform tracking of inmate correspondence, to include foreign language summary and verbatim translations.

These guidelines will be established by December 2006.

  1. Guidelines that ensure institutions use the existing incentive awards program, especially cash awards, to encourage and recognize BOP volunteer staff translators. The BOP also should consider developing incentives and awards to encourage BOP staff to volunteer for collateral translation duties.

Response:  We agree with this recommendation. We recognize staff with bilingual awards for their translation services. Our policy statement for incentive awards provides guidelines regarding the use of awards to recognize staff who significantly contribute to the orderly running of the agency through their use of foreign language skills. We will reiterate our policy to all wardens to ensure Bureau volunteer staff translators are being recognized for their efforts. We will also consider developing additional incentives and awards to encourage staff to volunteer for collateral translation duties.

We anticipate this direction to the wardens will be issued no later than December 2006. We will periodically update the OIG on our progress with this initiative.

Recommendation #4:  The BOP should offer Spanish and other language training to staff, as dictated by translation needs.

Response:  We agree with this recommendation. Currently a company, certified by the FBI, is providing training to ADX Florence's Arabic translators. We are further exploring the use of this company for in-house training at other facilities. In addition, we are communicating with staff from the Defense Language Institute (DLI), which provides very comprehensive training in over 20 languages, including Arabic, Chinese Mandarin, Dari-Persian, Hebrew, Russian, Tagalog, Vietnamese, etc., regarding language training possibilities. DLI currently provides language training to the FBI.

There are three Spanish Language Training Program courses scheduled for fiscal year 2007 at our Management Specialty Training Center. We will explore establishing a contract to develop Advanced Spanish for staff with the responsibility of or assisting with Spanish translations. The course can incorporate intelligence collection training, and the same can be done for Arabic and other languages.

We anticipate completion of these initiatives by October 2008, and will keep the OIG apprised of our progress.

Recommendation #5:  The BOP should provide advanced and continuing counterterrorism intelligence training to its full-time SIS staff, Language Specialists, and Intelligence Operations Officers (IOs), especially in those institutions that house terrorist inmates.

Response:  We agree with this recommendation. In August 2006, the Central Office Intelligence Section conducted Terrorist Management Training for the remaining SIS staff that had not attended previously.

We have made arrangements with the FBI to conduct an ongoing 40-­hour course focusing on intelligence gathering and analysis. The initial training will take place the week of December 4, 2006. The class will be conducted at the Quantico Marine Corps Base and will include Bureau staff from the Central Office Intelligence Section, Counter Terrorism Unit, Sacramento Intelligence Unit, and the SIA, two IOs, and three linguists from ADX Florence. Select staff will become certified as trainers to administer further training to the remaining Bureau intelligence and SIS staff. The FBI has agreed to provide an abridged form of this training for newly selected SIS staff.

In addition, a variety of computer-based training programs are currently being evaluated for use. These programs include a course on terrorism and can be modified to incorporate information specific to the Bureau.

We anticipate completion of these initiatives by October 2007.

Recommendation #6:  The BOP should clarify the role of IOs regarding membership on the FBI's JTTFs and ensure that the institutions support the IOs in carrying out their full-time task force coordination, intelligence gathering, and information sharing duties.

Response:  We agree with this recommendation in part. Many IOs participate on task forces other than JTTFs, such as Safe Streets or High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. Local federal agencies would prefer they continue in these roles as mandatory, full-time JTTF participation may undermine the goals of the local mission. However, the Bureau has required every institution to identify at least one staff member as a certified liaison with their local JTTF which enhances the gathering and dissemination of necessary information.

The Assistant Director, Correctional Programs Division, will distribute guidance and expectations to wardens for this initiative by November 2006.

Recommendation #7:  The BOP should ensure that it monitors 100percent of Alert telephone calls and translate all foreign language Alert calls.

Response:  We agree with this recommendation. The Bureau will incorporate a revision to agency policy ensuring all communications for inmates placed on monitoring are properly translated, if applicable, and reviewed by appropriately trained staff.

We anticipate this revision will be accomplished by July 2008.

Recommendation #8:  The BOP should ensure that it monitors 100percent of the calls of inmates on the SIS telephone monitoring lists and translate all foreign language calls from inmates on this list.

Response:  See response to recommendation 7 above.

Recommendation #9:  The BOP should review the frequency of the rotation and need for longer-term assignment of telephone monitor positions in SIS offices.

Response:  We agree with this recommendation. The roster rotation for the phone monitor position will undergo a review due to the critical nature of the position in the provision of timely and proficient monitoring of inmate telephone communications.

We anticipate resolution of this recommendation by May 2007.

Recommendation #10:  The BOP should ensure that foreign language telephone calls randomly selected for monitoring are translated either live or from the INTRUDR recordings.

Response:  We agree with this recommendation. We are conducting an internal assessment of language translation procedures. Random sampling or selection of foreign language telephone calls by general population inmates will be included in our procedural development.

We anticipate resolution of this recommendation by June 2008.

Recommendation #11:  The BOP should consider implementing audio recording of cellblock conversations of all SAMs inmates and establish guidelines regarding when and under what circumstances to record these conversations.

Response:  We agree further consideration is warranted. The Bureau will consult with the FBI to assess our current recording practices in order to determine if discretionary recording of cellblock conversations would be beneficial. The resources necessary (both technological and manpower to record and listen) to implement this recommendation will be restrictive.

We will convey our final decision after due consideration to the OIG by May 2007.

Recommendation #12:  The BOP should consider periodically audio recording social visits of non-SAMs terrorist inmates and other selected high-risk inmates in institution visiting rooms.

Response:  We agree with this recommendation and will assess the non-contact visitation process at the ADX to determine what system requirements will be needed to record visitation for high-risk inmates.

We will provide this assessment and our final decision and/or implementation plan to the OIG by March 2007.

Recommendation #15:  The BOP should review the information sharing procedures at the MCC New York and work with the FBI and the USAO to establish protocols for providing required inmate information about incoming terrorist and other high-risk inmates. The BOP should consider similar protocols at all MCCs and MDCs.

Response:  We agree with this recommendation. The MCC New York warden will be tasked with consulting with the local FBI and the USAO for the development of protocols for the provision of inmate information pertaining to terrorist and/or other high-risk inmates. The Assistant Director, Correctional Programs Division, will review the protocols for possible application at the national level.

We anticipate completion of these initiatives by September 2007.

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