U.S. Senators Jon Ossoff (D-GA) and Mike Braun (R-IN) are heading a new working group to examine conditions within the Bureau of Prisons after reports of widespread abuse, the Associated Press reports. In the last few years, the bureau has been plagued by a variety of issues, including criminal activity among staff, rampant sexual abuse at a women's prison in California, a lackluster COVID-19 response, chronically low staffing levels, and many escapes. Criticism over these issues caused agency director Michael Carvajal, to step down in January. A replacement has yet to be appointed. Adding to the poor press for the bureau, two prisoners were killed in a prison riot in Texas last month, prompting a nationwide federal prison lockdown.
The Senate working group has plans to promote policies to bolster oversight of the federal prison system and to improve channels of communication between Congress and the prison bureau. Already, Ossoff has introduced legislation to require Senate confirmation for the bureau director. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has joined Ossoff in that effort. The Senate has passed a Ossoff bill requiring federal prisons to repair and upgrade security systems, including non-functioning surveillance cameras. Broken cameras in prisons have led to a numerous escapes and played a prominent role in the 2019 suicide of Jeffery Epstein.