The BOP operates a nationwide system of prisons and detention facilities to incarcerate individuals imprisoned for federal crimes and detain those awaiting trial or sentencing in federal court. The BOP has approximately 37,000 employees and operates 115 institutions, 6 regional offices, and 2 staff training centers. The BOP is responsible for the custody and care of approximately 210,500 federal offenders, more than 173,000 of whom are confined in BOP-operated correctional institutions and detention centers. The remainder are confined in facilities operated by state or local governments or in privately operated facilities.
The OIG’s Audit Division evaluated the BOP’s furlough program. The BOP furlough program allows “an authorized absence from an institution by an inmate who is not under escort of a BOP staff member, U.S. Marshal, or state or federal agents.” For FYs 2007 through 2009, the BOP reported that it granted 162,655 furloughs to 90,002 inmates. Approximately 13 percent of BOP’s inmate population was granted a furlough each year.
In general, the BOP grants two types of furloughs – transfer and non-transfer. Non-transfer furloughs, where an inmate is allowed to leave and return to the same institution, generally are used to allow an inmate to receive short-term medical treatment, to strengthen an inmate’s family ties, or to allow an inmate to participate in educational, religious, or work-related activities. Transfer furloughs generally are used to transfer an inmate to another BOP institution, a medical facility for long-term treatment, or a halfway house when the inmate is nearing the end of his sentence.
Our audit found that, in general, the BOP has established and exercised appropriate controls to ensure that non-transfer furloughs were granted and processed in accordance with BOP policy. However, the audit identified several weaknesses with the BOP’s current furlough policy and with the BOP’s processing and documenting of transfer furloughs.
For example, we found that the BOP furlough policy did not require BOP staff to notify victims and witnesses when an inmate is released on a medical furlough. In 2003, the BOP drafted a new furlough policy that would require victim and witness notification when inmates are released on medical furloughs and that also addressed other weaknesses in the policy.
However, according to BOP officials, prior to implementing the new policy the BOP must negotiate this policy change with the union representing BOP employees. In this instance, 7 years after the BOP wrote a new draft policy that addresses weaknesses in the furlough program, the policy was still awaiting negotiation by the BOP and its employee union and had not been implemented.
Moreover, while the BOP agreed with the recommendation in our report to issue a revised furlough policy, the BOP responded that it estimated that the revised furlough policy would not be negotiated and implemented until December 2017. We concluded that the BOP’s timeframe for implementation of this recommendation is excessive and unacceptable. In essence, the BOP’s response to our recommendation stated that it would take a total of 14 years before furlough policy improvements are implemented to enhance victims’ rights.
Our review also determined that the BOP did not maintain readily accessible, accurate, and consistent data on inmate escapes while on furlough. The BOP relies on largely manual processes to obtain such data. Moreover, the BOP does not regularly review and analyze data to ensure that furloughs are properly granted and adequately overseen.
We also found that the BOP could not readily provide data associated with information it had received about crimes committed by furloughed inmates. We also determined that the BOP does not conduct regular reviews of its furlough data and, therefore, it was unaware whether inmate records that appeared to show an escape or improper furlough were data entry errors or improperly released inmates.
Finally, at the two BOP institutions we visited, the BOP had not maintained adequate records to ensure that transfer furloughs were processed in accordance with BOP policy. BOP inmate records are largely manual files and BOP officials we interviewed said that file management is an organization-wide issue.
The OIG made seven recommendations for the BOP to improve the management of furloughs. The BOP agreed with the recommendations and stated that they had begun taking actions to address them. However, because of the lengthy timeframe for implementing some of our recommendations, we considered our report to be unresolved.
During this reporting period, the OIG’s Audit Division issued a follow-up audit report examining the BOP’s efforts to manage inmate health care. The follow-up audit evaluated whether the BOP’s corrective actions in response to the recommendations in a 2008 OIG audit report were effective. We also assessed the BOP’s use of the National Practitioner Data Bank to determine if its health care providers have been involved in unethical or incompetent practices.
The 2008 OIG report had found unacceptable incidences of practitioners providing health care in BOP facilities without current privileges, practice agreements, protocols, and peer reviews. As a result of the OIG’s 2008 audit, the BOP agreed to take corrective actions to ensure its health-care practitioners were appropriately trained, skilled, and credentialed. The follow-up OIG report concluded that the BOP’s corrective actions resulted in significant improvements in its credentialing and peer review processes. However, additional improvements are needed to ensure that all BOP health care providers are operating with current authorization documents, and the BOP conducts regular peer reviews to eliminate the risk that practitioners may provide medical services without the necessary qualifications.
The audit also determined that the BOP institutions maintained National Practitioner Data Bank reports for 96 percent of its health care practitioners. The OIG recommended that the BOP take additional steps to obtain such reports for all health care providers.
In total, the OIG made seven recommendations to assist the BOP in ensuring that all health care providers have current privileges, practice agreements, protocols, and peer reviews, and that BOP has National Practitioner Data Bank reports for all of its practitioners. The BOP agreed with all of the recommendations.
During this reporting period, the OIG received 3,255 complaints involving the BOP. The most common allegations made against BOP employees included job performance failure; force, abuse, and rights violations; and security and custody failure. The vast majority of complaints dealt with non-criminal issues that the OIG referred to the BOP’s Office of Internal Affairs for its review.
At the close of the reporting period, the OIG had 187 open cases of alleged misconduct against BOP employees. The criminal investigations covered a wide range of allegations, including introduction of contraband and sexual abuse. The following are examples of cases involving the BOP that the OIG’s Investigations Division handled during this reporting period:
- An investigation by the OIG’s Miami Field Office led to the conviction of a BOP inmate incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Complex (FCC Coleman) in Coleman, Florida, on charges of soliciting and attempting to murder a witness and an OIG special agent. The inmate, formerly a BOP correctional officer in Danbury, Connecticut, previously had been convicted and sentenced to 15 years’ incarceration for sexual abuse of a female ward when he was a correctional officer and for plotting with a female inmate to murder his wife. Shortly after beginning his sentence in FCC Coleman, the former correctional officer solicited assistance from inmates to try to murder his estranged wife, her boyfriend, the female inmate from the previous investigation, and the OIG special agent who had investigated the original case. In the OIG investigation, the former correctional officer provided an OIG undercover agent with physical descriptions of each target of his plot, their geographical locations, specific instructions as to how to commit the murders, and an initial payment for the murders of $500 from his BOP inmate account. The former correctional officer was charged and convicted for this plot, and he was sentenced to 90 years’ incarceration to run consecutive with his current 15-year sentence.
- An investigation by the OIG’s Los Angeles Field Office resulted in the arrest of a BOP warden on charges of making false statements and disclosing confidential government information. The indictment asserted that the warden: (1) made a false statement to OIG special agents when he denied making Internet postings that disclosed confidential government information concerning criminal investigations at the prison; and (2) disclosed confidential government information concerning a BOP employee who was suspected of being involved with an inmate gambling scheme and concerning a homicide that occurred at the prison in August 2009. The warden has been suspended without pay pending the outcome of the investigation. Judicial proceedings continue.
- A joint investigation by the OIG’s Atlanta Area Office, the OIG’s Oversight and Review Division, and the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation office led to the arrest of a former UNICOR factory manager and his cousin, a former BOP contractor, on charges of money laundering, wire fraud, conflict of interest, and deprivation of honest services. UNICOR is the trade name of Federal Prison Industries which is a government owned corporation operated by the BOP. The factory manager, assigned to UNICOR’s computer recycling factory at the federal prison in Marianna, Florida, was responsible for managing UNICOR eBay sales of surplus computer equipment. His cousin became the exclusive eBay contractor for UNICOR and was responsible for selling recycled UNICOR computers and equipment from the UNICOR factory in Marianna. The investigation determined that the UNICOR factory manager directed the highest quality equipment to his cousin. Between 2004 and 2007, the factory manager and his cousin allegedly benefitted from profits resulting from the elimination of potential competition with other UNICOR contractors. The factory manager received over $225,000 from his cousin during this time. The former factory manager and his cousin both pled guilty to conflict of interest, money laundering, wire fraud, and deprivation of honest services. They also pled guilty to false statements and obstruction of justice respectively, and are both awaiting sentencing later this year.
- An investigation by the OIG’s Houston Area Office resulted in the arrest and guilty plea of a BOP correctional officer assigned to the U.S. Penitentiary in Pollock, Louisiana, on charges of bribery, possessing or providing contraband in prison, and possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance (cocaine). The investigation determined that the correctional officer smuggled contraband, including a cellular telephone, marijuana, tobacco, and prescription medications, into the U.S. Penitentiary and that he received approximately $20,000 in bribes from both inmates and inmate family members for the contraband. The correctional officer was arrested following an undercover operation wherein he accepted $26,000, 7 ounces of cocaine, a handgun, and ammunition from an undercover agent in return for smuggling contraband into the institution. He was sentenced in the Western District of Louisiana to 41 months’ incarceration followed by 36 months of supervised release and fined $7,500.
- An investigation by the OIG’s New Jersey Area Office led to the arrest of a Public Health Service pharmacist assigned to the BOP Federal Correctional Institution in Fairton, New Jersey (FCI Fairton), on charges of theft of government property. The investigation determined that the pharmacist, in his official capacity, ordered drugs and other supplies worth in excess of $7,000 from the prison pharmacy at FCI Fairton to support his drug habit. BOP has removed his access to BOP facilities and Public Health Service placed him on administrative leave. The pharmacist pled guilty and awaits sentencing.
- An investigation by the OIG’s Miami Field Office led to the arrest of a BOP assistant factory manager in the Northern District of Florida on sexual abuse charges. The investigation determined that the assistant factory manager sexually abused a BOP inmate assigned to FCI Tallahassee while the inmate was working at a UNICOR factory. Judicial proceedings continue.
- A joint investigation by the OIG’s Chicago Field Office and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service led to the arrest and guilty plea of a former BOP inmate for charges of mail fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy. The investigation determined that the former inmate falsely represented to another inmate that he was a DEA informant who could obtain sentence reductions for federal inmates who funded DEA undercover operations. The former inmate also falsely claimed that he was working with a DEA special agent and obtained $36,500 in cashier’s checks from an inmate victim in return for the sentence reduction. The investigation did not find evidence that any DEA employee was involved in the scheme. In addition, the former inmate obtained identifying information from the victim inmate that enabled him to transfer $145,000 from the victim’s brokerage account to his own bank account. Upon discovery of the schemes, $157,079 was recovered through stop-payment orders. The former inmate was sentenced in the Southern District of Illinois to 61 months’ incarceration, 36 months of supervised release, and ordered to pay restitution of $12,500 to the inmate victim and $11,921 to the brokerage firm.
- An investigation by the OIG’s Chicago Field Office lead to the arrest and guilty plea of a BOP inmate on charges of obstruction of justice. The investigation determined that after the inmate had been arrested on identity theft charges, she made false statements and provided fabricated evidence to the OIG alleging that a Department employee was involved in the ongoing identity theft scheme. The inmate subsequently admitted to the OIG that she created false evidence in an attempt to receive a reduction in her prison sentence in the identity theft case. She was sentenced in the Western District of Missouri to 96 months’ incarceration, followed by 36 months’ supervised release, pursuant to her guilty plea to charges of obstruction of justice. She was sentenced to an additional 24 months’ incarceration, to run consecutively to the obstruction of justice sentence, for her conviction on identity theft charges. She was also ordered to forfeit $40,000 to the United States as reimbursement for costs related to the investigations of her criminal activities.
- A joint investigation by the OIG’s Washington Field Office and the FBI’s Richmond Field Office led to the arrest and guilty plea of a BOP supply management specialist, assigned to the Federal Correctional Complex in Petersburg, Virginia, to theft of government funds. The investigation found that from 2001 to 2009, the supply management specialist routinely provided false information to the National Finance Center regarding overtime hours she allegedly worked. In fact, during the 8-year period, she received $100,000 in compensation for overtime that she did not work. The supply management specialist was sentenced to five months’ imprisonment followed by three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $100,000 in restitution.
- An investigation by the OIG’s Los Angeles Field Office resulted in the arrest of a former BOP accounting assistant previously assigned to the U.S Penitentiary in Lompoc, California, in the Central District of California, on charges of making false statements in order to receive federal workers’ compensation benefits. The investigation determined that the accounting assistant received benefit payments from the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs beginning in 2000 and totaling $160,800, while simultaneously employed as a manicurist. A review of the employee’s claim file determined that she failed to report her work status and income on Labor Department forms she signed and submitted on an annual basis. During her interview, the employee confessed she had worked as a manicurist since sustaining an on-duty injury in 1997, and that she lied on the forms in order to keep receiving benefits. Judicial proceedings continue.
The Federal Prison Industries’ Electronic Waste Recycling Program
The OIG’s Oversight and Review Division is examining allegations that the Federal Prison Industries’ electronic waste recycling program exposed staff and inmates to toxic metals and caused illnesses.
The BOP’s Hiring Process
The OIG is reviewing the BOP’s hiring of correctional officers to evaluate how effectively the BOP identifies unsuitable applicants for these positions.