This report summarizes the progress, at the time of our on-site reviews, of 25 states in implementing and complying with the requirements of the Violent Offender Incarceration and Truth-in-Sentencing Incentive (VOI/TIS) Grant Program. We conducted the state reviews based on the Attorney General’s request that the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) and the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) ensure that the states were properly expending grant funds and implementing TIS laws. The specific objectives of our reviews were to determine whether the states were implementing TIS laws, planning to follow the TIS laws after the grant program ends, increasing bed space for violent offenders, and complying with other financial and programmatic requirements of the grant.

Overview of the VOI/TIS Grant Program

Program Purpose. The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (Crime Act) addresses the need for additional prison and jail capacity so that violent offenders can be removed from the community and the public can be assured that these offenders will serve substantial portions of their sentences.1 Through the VOI/TIS Grant Program, created under the Crime Act, funding will be awarded to states2 as formula grants to build or expand correctional facilities and jails to increase secure confinement space for persons convicted of Part 1 violent crimes3 and to encourage states to implement TIS laws. Half of the funds are available for Violent Offender Incarceration Grants and half for Truth-in-Sentencing Incentive Grants. Appendix I provides detailed program information.

Eligibility Requirements. The VOI/TIS grants have various levels of eligibility primarily based on incarcerating violent offenders and implementing TIS laws. States may apply for funds under both grant categories. Applications must be submitted annually. The eligibility requirements are briefly summarized below.

VOI Grants. The VOI grant funds are allocated to states using a three-tiered formula. Each tier of the formula has different criteria for eligibility and eligible states may receive funding under all three tiers. To qualify for Tier 1, a state must assure that it has implemented or will implement correctional policies, programs, and laws that ensure inmates serve substantial portions of their sentences and receive a sufficiently severe punishment and appropriate prison time for their crimes.

A state that receives grant funds under Tier 1 is eligible to receive additional funds under Tier 2 if it demonstrates that, since 1993, it has increased (1) the percentage of persons arrested for a Part 1 violent crime who are sentenced to prison; or (2) the average prison time actually served for a Part 1 violent crime; or (3) the average percent of sentence served by persons convicted of a Part 1 violent crime.

A state that receives a grant under Tier 1 (and Tier 2, if applicable) is eligible for additional funds under Tier 3 if it can demonstrate that it has either (1) since 1993, increased the percentage of persons arrested for a Part 1 violent crime sentenced to prison and has increased the average percent of sentence served by persons convicted of a Part 1 violent crime; or (2) increased by 10 percent or more over the most recent 3-year period the number of new court commitments to prison of persons convicted of Part 1 violent crimes.

TIS Grants. To be eligible for TIS grant funds, states must demonstrate through enactment of a law or historical inmate data that Part 1 violent offenders serve at least 85 percent of the sentence imposed. The grant funds will be allocated to each eligible state on the basis of its share of the average number of Part 1 violent crimes for the preceding three years, as reported to and published by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for all eligible states.

Special Conditions. To receive grant funds, the states must also fulfill a variety of other requirements, such as demonstrating the ability to fully support, operate, and maintain correctional facilities constructed with grant funds; implementing policies that provide for the rights and needs of crime victims; implementing a program of drug testing, intervention, and sanctions for offenders under corrections supervision; and reporting inmate deaths.

Program Funding. The VOI/TIS program has an authorization for approximately $10 billion through Fiscal Year (FY) 2000. In addition to the VOI/TIS formula grant program, the authorization includes funding for (1) the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP) to reimburse state and local jurisdictions for incarcerating criminal aliens, (2) reimbursements for holding federal prisoners in state and local facilities, (3) a discretionary grant program to build jails on tribal lands, and (4) program administration. The actual appropriations have been significantly less than the authorized amount. The following table details the authorized amount, the appropriated amount, and the amount available for awards to the states under the VOI/TIS formula grant program.

Table 1. Program Funding




Total Available for VOI/TIS Formula Grants


$ 997,500,000



















The remaining appropriated funds were for the SCAAP and the other activities. For the 25 states reviewed by the OIG, Appendix II lists the total VOI/TIS grant funds awarded for FY 1996, FY 1997, and FY 1998.

Grant Recipients. The following tables show the number of VOI/TIS grant recipients for FY 1996, FY 1997, and FY 1998:

Table 2. Number of FY 1996 Grant Recipients


Table 3. Number of FY 1997 Grant Recipients

Table 4. Number of FY 1998 Grant Recipients

Partnership for Program Improvement

The Corrections Program Office, under the OJP, administers the VOI/TIS Grant Program. The Corrections Program Office and the Inspections Division, OIG, formed a partnership to respond to the Attorney General’s request for information about the state’s expenditure of grant funds and implementation of and commitment to TIS laws. The partnership involved close coordination and cooperation between the two offices to develop a comprehensive approach for reviewing and improving the VOI/TIS Grant Program.

In May 1996, prior to the release of the first VOI/TIS Grant Program Guidance and Application Kit to the states, we reviewed the kit to ensure that statutory program requirements were properly reflected and that program performance measures and administrative and financial controls had been established. We also participated in a series of conferences and workshops sponsored by the Corrections Program Office to keep informed of the VOI/TIS Grant Program and general grant administration and to provide information to state representatives about our on-site reviews. Appendix III lists the conferences attended by OIG inspectors. We met on several occasions with management officials of the Corrections Program Office to determine topic areas for coverage during our on-site reviews. For one such meeting, state correctional and grant officials from Maryland attended and discussed issues related to inmate tracking and population data, grant administration and monitoring, potential funding priorities for VOI/TIS grant funds, and the impact of TIS laws on states. Throughout our reviews, we maintained continuous contact with the Corrections Program Office to address developing concerns.

On-Site Methodology

Site Selection. From May 4, 1997, through March 31, 1999, we conducted 25 on-site state reviews and issued 25 reports. We selected the 25 states based on suggestions from the OJP Corrections Program Office, the size and type of the grant awards, geographic location, and potential problems identified from our review of the OJP grant files. Collectively, the 25 states were awarded $939,401,505 in VOI/TIS grant funds from FY 1996 through FY 1998. This amount represents approximately 69 percent of the total funds awarded during that period for the VOI/TIS Grant Program. Eighteen of the 25 states had TIS laws and had received TIS grants, in addition to VOI grants.

Areas Reviewed. During the 25 on-site state reviews, we examined the following four areas to determine whether the states were meeting the requirements for the VOI/TIS Grant Program.4

Application Information. For each state, we reviewed the state’s procedures for compiling inmate data to determine whether the data contained in the grant applications and used for tracking and reporting purposes was gathered in a reliable manner. We interviewed state officials and identified the state’s process for obtaining information for the applications. We reviewed the state’s inmate tracking system and the supporting documentation extracted from the system to prepare the grant applications. We compared the supporting documentation to the applications and verified whether the data agreed. We also interviewed grant managers within the OJP Corrections Program Office and identified OJP’s process for ensuring the states’ application information was reliable.

Through interviews and document reviews, we verified that the states met the special conditions of the grant program. We ensured that all the required guidelines and procedures regarding the rights of crime victims, inmate drug testing, and inmate death reporting were being implemented or developed.

TIS and State Correctional Strategies. We reviewed whether the TIS grants influenced a state’s decision to implement a TIS law or other sentencing practices that required violent offenders to serve at least 85 percent of the sentence imposed. For states with TIS laws, we interviewed state officials and reviewed the TIS laws, the legislative history, and other documents such as special studies that discussed the states’ decisions to enact the laws. Similarly, for states without TIS laws, we interviewed state officials and reviewed documents that discussed the states’ decisions to forgo TIS laws. We also reviewed all states’ projected inmate populations and correctional strategies to determine whether the effect of violent offenders serving longer sentences was considered in the decision-making processes and that TIS states could meet their future needs for inmate housing. According to the OJP Corrections Program Office, one major factor affecting a state’s ability to implement its TIS law for violent offenders is the state’s ability to manage its overall inmate population.

Grant Construction Projects. We verified that the projects proposed in the grant applications were the same projects the states intended to continue. If new projects were proposed or underway, we reviewed the OJP grant files to determine whether amended applications had been submitted and the OJP had approved the projects and issued grant adjustment notices. To determine whether the states’ projects would increase bed space for violent offenders, we reviewed architectural plans for the projects, visited construction sites, and interviewed state officials responsible for grant management and construction oversight. We also reviewed project budgets to determine whether federal grant funds were of significant benefit to the states in adding prison bed space and managing their violent inmate populations.

Administrative and Financial Controls. We reviewed the states’ administrative and financial controls, including matching funds, audit requirements, reporting requirements, and cash management, to determine whether the states have the necessary policies and procedures in place to manage federal grant funds. We interviewed state officials responsible for financial management and oversight of construction projects about their accounting and monitoring processes. We reviewed accounting records and verified the amounts of federal grant awards and state matching funds, and the timeliness and allowability of project expenditures. We verified that the states had submitted timely and accurate individual project reports, quarterly financial statements, and semi-annual progress reports as required by the grant program. We also reviewed state audit reports and management’s comments and corrective actions to determine the existence of any material weaknesses or reportable conditions that would affect the states’ ability to manage grant funds.

1 According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice, the states’ inmate population increased from 708,393 inmates in 1990 to 1,178,978 inmates in 1998. Over 40 percent of the increase in the inmate population was due to an increase in the number of prisoners convicted of violent crimes. At yearend 1997, approximately 519,800 inmates in state prisons were held for violent crimes.

2 State means a State of the United States; the District of Columbia; and the territories of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the United States Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

3 Part 1 Violent Crimes include murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault as reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for purposes of the Uniform Crime Reports. See Appendix I for more information.

4 Appendix I provides more detailed information about the grant program and its eligibility requirements, which we reviewed during the site visits to determine the states’ compliance.