Federal Prison Overcrowding Threatening Inmate, Staff Safety: GAO


A recent U.S. Government Accountability Office report on the U.S. Bureau of Prisons says inmate overcrowding undermines the safety of the agency's staff, as well as that of the inmates, reports the Washington Post. “Bureau of Prisons officials reported increased use of double and triple bunking, waiting lists for education and drug treatment programs, limited meaningful work opportunities, and increased inmate-to-staff ratios,” the September report says. “These factors, taken together, contribute to increased inmate misconduct, which negatively affects the safety and security of inmates and staff.”

The prison facilities are crowded because the inmate population is growing faster than the bureau's capacity. As the prison population grew 9.5 percent from 2006 through 2011, the agency's capacity, increasing at 7 percent, didn't keep up. Much of this bad news could be better if federal officials had greater flexibility in reducing the prison population. A number of states have done more than the federal government in modifying their sentencing policies. “Because of the mandatory minimum sentences required for many federal offenses and the absence of parole for most federal inmates in the federal system, BOP generally does not have the authority to significantly adjust an inmate's period of incarceration,” the GAO said.

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