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GAO Puts BOP on Critical List

LISA newsletter, Vol. 9, No. 17, April 24, 2023

The Government Accounting Office last week added the BOP to its "high risk" list of "government operations with vulnerabilities to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement, or in need of transformation."

Federal prisons were the only program added to the 2023 list, which is updated every two years. The GAO has seen "progress in certain areas due to congressional and executive branch actions, but there are still serious, very consequential problems that need to be addressed." GAO head Gene Dodaro recently told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. "We're adding management of the Bureau of Prisons, there's bee problems with staffing, which has led to some concerns about inmate and staff safety and also their efforts to evaluate programs that are intended to help deal with the recidivism issue."

GAO first identified BOP management as an "emerging high-risk issue" in March 2021. Since then, GAO reports, the BOP has addressed 22 GAO recommendations, leaving 28 recommendations still on the table. What's more, Charles Johnson, managing director for GAO's homeland security and justice team, told Congress the BOP's staffing level remains down 15%.

Speaking of management failings, the Associated Press reported last week that an inmate whose death sentence was commuted in 2019 remains housed on death row at USP Terre Haute.

Four years later, AP reported, the BOP has not moved him to a less restrictive unit. Asked about the prisoner's continued placement on death row, a Dept. of Justice official told AP that "the Bureau of Prisons is considering (the inmate's) designation determination."

AP said that the case "illustrates chronic bureaucracy in the prisons system and the difficulties in getting anyone off death row."

"How can I not get this guy off death row?" federal defender Monica Foster said in a recent interview. "Well, I did get him off death row. But why can't I physically get him off death row?"

Meanwhile, after a recent disturbance at a BOP low-security facility, a Florida TV station last week reporter, "multiple sources from inside the facility (said) that more than 100 weapons were found." A prison security expert told the station, "Discovering a hundred weapons in a search following something like this would signal the administration. It would signal me. If I were the administrator, to look into my search processes."

The station said that a 2019 OSHA report likewise recommended that the BOP "increase number of searches for weapons, cell phones, and contraband."

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