U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his fellow Kentuckian Rand Paul have introduced The Federal Prisons Accountability Act of 2015, which would require Senate confirmation for the director of the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). Unlike most top Department of Justice officials, the BOP director is appointed by the Attorney General. Currrent BOP director Charles Samuels plans to retire this year. McConnell, noting that there are five federal prisons in Kentucky, said corrections officers have repeatedly called for BOP to take additional steps to mitigate risks to officer safety from violent inmates.
He said subjecting the BOP Director to the same congressional review as other law enforcement agency chiefs “will ensure greater responsiveness by the agency to the safety needs of its nearly 40,000 dedicated federal corrections employees.” The BOP Director, who oversees 122 federal facilities, also administers what McConnell called “the controversial Federal Prisons Industries (FPI) program,” which he said competes against the private sector by paying federal prisoners less than private sector workers. BOP now spends about one-fourth of the Justice Department budget. “No agency as large as the Bureau of Prisons should have so little accountability,” said Paul. “Our bill will ensure the concerns of those who work in the prisons are heard and acted upon. It will also ensure the small businesses affected by competition from the bureau have their voices heard.” Don Peace, President of Local 614, which represents the staff at the U.S. Penitentiary McCreary in Pine Knot, Ky., said, “this bill would bring some greatly needed oversight to this agency.”