The Government Accountability Office has proposed changes that highlight the struggles of the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) the past few years. These issues range from budget crises, poor ways of tracking staffing and overtime work, all the way down to federal inmates leaving “dummies” in their cells and bringing contraband into the prisons. These issues have all culminated into the Biden Administration considering the termination of BOP director, Michael Carvajal.
Mr. Carvajal has been the director of BOP since February 25th, 2020. Essentially, he took the job right before COVID became a global pandemic. Carvajal was tasked with navigating the proper way to handle the BOP. However, the Biden Administration has lost faith in him according to sources and are planning on relieving him of his duties.
According to the AP, under Mr. Carvajal’s leadership there has been rampant spread of COVID-19, escaped inmates, deaths, and staffing issues.
Government Accountability Office: Room for Improvement at the BOP
According to a study done by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), seven areas were found to need improvement. All seven of these recommendations are related to the staffing challenges within the BOP. These recommendations were made in light of the failure of the BOP. These failures occurred under Mr. Carvajal as well as his predecessors.
The seven recommendations include:
1) Creating or altering a method for calculating staff levels within the Bureau.
2) Create a plan for addressing the potential impacts of these staffing challenges both on current staff and the inmates inside the prisons
3) Creating a risk assessment of use of overtime
4) Developing incentives for performance measurements and goals for the staff of the prisons
5) Develop and implement methods that ensures that the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) participation and cost data are collecting faster and more reliably
6) Develop and implement a way to collect and evaluate feedback on the EAP and use existing tools or create new ones
7) Utilize the staff suicide data and amend the suicide prevention training to address the challenges that BOP staff endure.
Based on these recommendations there are some serious challenges within the BOP. From overworked staff to budget crunches the BOP is in need of overhaul and quickly. These budget crunches have led to a delay in start dates for new employees according to Politico.
Politico: Budget Crunch Prevents Staffing
In the article, Politico states that newly hired employees cannot start until at least October 1st of this year. A lot of the monetary issues come from the BOP paying more than $300 million in overtime wages because they were experiencing staff shortages. There was an initiative to hire 1,000 new employees within 120, however the BOP employs over 38,000 people so this initiative works for now, but these staffing shortages should not be viewed as over, and the BOP does not view this issue as solved. According to a spokesperson the Bureau is using social media and job fairs to find more hires.
These staffing shortages have led to escaped prisoners and an influx of contraband such as drugs and alcohol being brought into the prisons. According to a DOJ report, inmates were using dummies to throw off the guards counting how many inmates were in their beds in the cells. While the 4:00 PM and 10:00 AM checks are stand-up checks, meaning the inmates must be present and standing during the inspection, the overnight checks were not standing checks. Because of this, in low-level security institutions, inmates were going through unlocked and unmanned doors and escaping in the night, because of staffing shortages within the prisons.
The responsibility ultimately falls on Mr. Carvajal and his failure to implement and maintain Bureau staffing policies and his inability to maintain order within the prisons have led to loss of confidence from the Biden Administration and may, in the end, lead to his termination.The