LISA newsletter, July 16, 2023
Edited by Thomas L. Root, MA, JD
Vol. 9, No. 29
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH, SENATORS TELL BOP
It’s been a rough ride for BOP Director Colette Peters' 1st year, due mostly to problems that preceded her tenure.
There has been a steady stream of BOP employees being convicted of everything from cellphone smuggling to COVID fraud. Last week, two more BOP COs agreed to plead guilty to sexually abusing female inmates at FCI Dublin and then lying about it. The Dept of Justice Inspector General issued a scathing report of BOP mismanagement and maladministration that led to the suicide of high-value celebrity prisoner Jeffrey Epstein and the murder of Whitey Bulger.
This past week saw a former US Gymnastics doc – serving a life sentence – stabbed at USP Coleman by attackers unknown. BOP employees blamed the attack on a short-staffed facility.
The Associated Press reported that the prisoner was attacked inside his cell, “a blind spot for prison surveillance cameras that only record common areas and corridors.” The AP said, “In federal prison parlance, because of the lack of video, it is known as an ‘unwitnessed event.’”
It isn’t clear that even full implementation of last year’s Prison Camera Reform Act (Pub.L. 117-321) would have stopped the stabbing or prevented Capitol Hill from finally having had enough of BOP follies.
A bipartisan group of senators last week introduced the Federal Prison Accountability Act of 2023, intended to increase oversight at federal prisons.
Among other things, FPAA would require the president to seek Senate advice and consent when appointing the BOP director, who would be appointed to a single, 10-year term.
Sen Charles Grassley (R-IA), ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said requiring Senate confirmation of the BOP director would “bring badly needed transparency and accountability to the federal prison system.”
“The Director… leads thousands of employees and expends a massive budget,” Grassley said. “It’s a big job with even bigger consequences should mismanagement or abuse weasel its way into the system.”
Following an 8-month investigation last year that revealed rampant sexual abuse by BOP employees of female prisoners, Sen Jon Ossoff (D-GA) introduced the Federal Prison Oversight Act (S.4988). The bill – which would have required the DOJ Inspector General to conduct inspections of the BOP’s 122 correctional facilities, provide recommendations to problems and assign each facility a risk score – had no chance of passage in the waning days of the 117th Congress.
But in April, Ossoff introduced a revised FPOA (S 1401), with Rep Lucy McBath (D-GA) filing a companion bill in the House (HR 3109). The new FPOA would have, among other actions, created a hotline for prisoners to report misconduct.
Now, three months later, the latest effort to reform federal prisons would subject the BOP director to the same congressional scrutiny as other law enforcement agency chiefs such as the FBI director.
Grassley introduced the FPAA along with Ossoff and 8 other senators.
With that kind of legislative horsepower behind it – not to mention black eyes like Jeffrey Epstein, Whitey Bulger, and the latest stabbing – it’s safe to predict that Peters may be the last BOP Director to be appointed without Senate approval.