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Federal Prisons Deteriorating, Underfunded: Inspector General

The nation's federal prisons are deteriorating. All 123 of the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) institutions require maintenance, with a large and growing list of unfunded modernization and repair needs Three institutions are in such critical stages of disrepair that they are fully or partially closed, says a new report from Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz.

Horowitz said the agency's efforts to address these issues were marked by a mismatch between available and needed funding, and the absence of a well-defined infrastructure strategy.

The Inspector General's office (OIG) launched a web page with photos and videos documenting the condition of prison cells, cell blocks, and kitchen, dining, and other areas at five BOP institutions, in Los Angeles (Terminal Island), Kern County, Ca., (Taft), Atlanta, Oklahoma City, and New York, the Department of Justice reports.

As of May 2022, the BOP’s estimated cost for needed, major repairs was approaching $2 billion. However, Horowitz found that the BOP’s budget requests have been far below its own estimates of resource needs.

BOP sought less than $200 million for its infrastructure needs in fiscal year 2022, and Congress appropriated $59 million. Consequently, the resources available to address BOP’s maintenance needs are limited, and in many cases, necessary repairs cannot be completed in a timely manner due to a lack of funding.

This results in increasingly costly maintenance and, in the most extreme circumstances, having to shutter institutions and relocate inmates due to unsafe conditions, OIG said.

At the same time, Congress has set aside over $1 billion for the BOP to construct two new institutions, but these funds remain largely unspent. The projects have been in the planning stages for over a decade, and the BOP’s requests each year that Congress cancel one of these projects and rescind the funds have not been acted on.

Because the BOP is facing an infrastructure environment where funding needs and resources do not align, it must make difficult decisions about its infrastructure priorities.


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