Semiannual Report to Congress

October 1, 2010 – March 31, 2011
Office of the Inspector General

Federal Bureau of Prisons

Photo of a prisonThe 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 38,100 employees and operates 116 institutions, 6 regional offices, and 2 staff training centers. The BOP is responsible for the custody and care of approximately 209,300 federal offenders, more than 172,500 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.

Reports Issued

The Federal Prison Industries’ Electronic Waste Recycling Program

The OIG issued a report examining the BOP’s e-waste recycling program. The BOP’s e-waste program is run by UNICOR, a government corporation within the BOP that employs staff and inmates at federal prisons throughout the United States. UNICOR began its e-waste recycling program in the mid-1990s. It accepts computers, monitors, printers, and other types of e-waste for recycling at federal prisons. UNICOR sells these e-waste items following refurbishment, or after disassembling the items into their component parts. When e-waste is disassembled and recycled, workers can be exposed to toxic metals that can cause serious health implications.

The OIG reviewed the operation of UNICOR’s e-waste recycling operations after complaints arose about unsafe working conditions at some UNICOR facilities. Four federal agencies with expertise in health, safety, and environmental compliance assisted the OIG in this investigation. The OIG investigation examined e-waste recycling at all 10 institutions where UNICOR performed e-waste recycling, although two of these had stopped recycling before our field work began. The OIG’s investigation identified significant safety and environmental problems with UNICOR’s e-waste program. We found that when UNICOR began the program, it did not implement adequate measures to address the safety of staff and inmates who were employed in the program. As a result, staff and inmates at several BOP institutions were exposed to levels of the toxic metals cadmium and lead that exceeded OSHA standards. 

The OIG’s investigation determined that beginning in 2003, UNICOR took steps to improve the health, safety, and environmental compliance performance of the ewaste program. However, despite these steps, our investigation found that prior to 2009, UNICOR failed to timely institute adequate policies to protect staff and inmates from the hazards associated with e-waste recycling, to properly advise staff and inmates about hazards once they were identified and to correct them, and to conduct e-waste operations in compliance with applicable health, safety, and environmental regulations. By 2009, with limited exceptions, UNICOR’s e-waste operations were compliant with OSHA requirements and were being operated safely.

During the course of our review, the OIG’s technical team made a total of 47 separate recommendations to assist UNICOR to address deficiencies at UNICOR’s e-waste factories. UNICOR, the BOP, and the Department have made progress toward addressing these technical recommendations, and 31 have been closed. Our final report identified 12 additional recommendations to the BOP and the Department, which the BOP agreed to implement.


During this reporting period, the OIG received 3,097 complaints involving the BOP. The most common allegations made against BOP employees included official misconduct and force, abuse, and rights violations. 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.

During this reporting period, the OIG opened 102 investigations and referred 16 allegations to the BOP’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) for action or investigation. At the close of the reporting period, the OIG had 208 open cases of alleged misconduct against BOP employees. The criminal investigations covered a wide range of allegations, including official misconduct and force, abuse, and rights violations.

BOP cases opened by offense category for October 1, 2010 through March 31, 2011: bribery-14; Conflict of interest-1; drug violations-1; force, abuse rights, violations-26; fraud-5; off-duty violations-2; official misconduct-44; theft-6; waste, mismanagement-3.
Source:  Investigations Data Management System

The following are examples of cases involving the BOP that the OIG’s Investigations Division handled during this reporting period:

Ongoing Work

Management of Residential Reentry Centers

The OIG is examining the BOP’s management of Residential Reentry Centers (RRCs) which provide a structured, supervised environment for inmates readjusting to their communities, as well as employment counseling, job placement, financial management assistance, and other programs and services. The audit will determine whether the BOP effectively monitors RRC performance, whether RRC operations are conducted in compliance with BOP requirements, and whether the BOP administers its RRC contracts in accordance with applicable laws, regulations, and policies.

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.


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