Overcrowding in the federal prison system is concentrated in the highest security facilities, according to new data released by the Congressional Charles Colson Task Force on Federal Corrections and the Urban Institute.
The nine-person, bipartisan task force is mandated by Congress to examine challenges in the federal corrections system and develop practical, data-driven policy responses.
“Though overcrowding has begun to fall in lower security facilities, at fiscal yearend 2014 overcrowding remained at 39 percent in medium and 52 percent in high security facilities,” the task force found. “The very facilities where inmates have the greatest need for intensive programming and present the greatest security threats.”
The federal Bureau of Prisons saw its first population decline in decades during fiscal year 2014, but the task force notes that its incarcerated population is still 750 percent higher than it was in 1980.
Spending on the federal prison system is also 635 percent higher than it was in 1980.
In 2009, about 20 percent of of the U.S. Justice Department's (DOJ's) budget was devoted to the Bureau of Prisons. In 2015, more than 25 percent of the DOJ's budget, $7 billion, is appropriated for the Bureau of Prisons.
“Although the prison population is expected to decrease further in the coming years, spending on prisons is anticipated to consume a similarly large proportion of the DOJ budget into the future; the budget request for FY 2016 asks for over $400 million in additional spending to improve safety in overcrowded and understaffed facilities and expand the availability of programming,” the task force writes.
Read the policy brief HERE.