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GAO Faults Federal Prisons for Recidivism Program Gaps

The federal Bureau of Prisons lacks reliable data and clear, measurable goals to carry out goals set out in the First Step Act to reduce recidivism by assessing people's risk of reoffending, a new report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office finds. Since Congress passed the law in 2018, the Department of Justice developed a risk assessment tool and the prison system tailored its assessment system to identify prisoners' needs for recidivism-reduction programs. But, without "readily available, complete, and accurate data," the BOP can't tell if its efforts work.


"BOP has some data on who participates in its programs and activities, but does not have a mechanism to monitor if it offers a sufficient amount," the report found. "Without such a mechanism, BOP cannot ensure it is meeting the incarcerated population's needs." GAO made eight recommendations for BOP to improve its First Step Act procedures, all but two of which BOP concurred with. The recommendations include: better tracking of First Step Act risk and needs assessments; ensuring that the plan to evaluate evidence-based recidivism reduction programs sets out quantifiable goals and timelines; and better monitoring of whether BOP offers enough programs to meet the needs of its prisoner population.

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