The Federal Bureau of Prisons Inmate Release Preparation and Transitional Reentry Programs
Report No. 04-16
Office of the Inspector General
The Federal Bureau of Prisons' (BOP) stated mission is to protect society by confining offenders in the controlled environments of prisons and community?based facilities that are safe, humane, cost-efficient, appropriately secure, and that provide work and other self?improvement opportunities to assist offenders in becoming law?abiding citizens. It is a strategic objective of the BOP to "provide productive work, education, occupational training, and recreational activities which prepare inmates for employment opportunities and a successful reintegration upon release, and which have a clear correctional management purpose which minimizes inmate idleness."1
During Fiscal Year (FY) 2000 through FY 2002, the BOP reported that 74,401 federal prison inmates were released from its institutions. It is expected that a large percentage of inmates released will recidivate. Based on the most recent statistics available on federal inmates from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), approximately 16 percent of federal inmates released will return to federal prisons within 3 years.2 Further, according to the most recent study conducted by the BOP on recidivism rates for federal inmates, about 41 percent of federal inmates released to the community in 1987 were rearrested or had their parole revoked within 3 years of release.3
According to the DOJ Strategic Plan, since a majority of inmates will be released at some point, it is important for the DOJ to provide them the means to increase their chances for successful reentry into society. The Strategic Plan states that the BOP has a responsibility to offer program opportunities to inmates that provide the skills necessary for successful reentry into society. Therefore, in addition to the basic services (such as clothing, food, and access to health care), the BOP provides inmates with a variety of educational, vocational, recreational, religious, and psychological programs. The BOP's inmate programs are geared, ultimately, toward preparing inmates for eventual release.
In addition to programs offered during incarceration designed to prepare inmates for reentry into society (reentry programs), the BOP requires that all eligible inmates receive transitional reentry services through placement in Community Corrections Centers (CCC), also referred to as halfway houses, prior to release. This placement is intended to help inmates adjust to life in the community and find suitable post-release employment.4
The DOJ Office of the Inspector General (OIG) conducted this audit to evaluate whether the BOP ensures that federal inmates participate in its programs designed to prepare them for successful reentry into society. The objectives of our audit were to determine whether the BOP ensures that:
The DOJ is responsible for the detention and incarceration of persons charged with violating federal statutes. The DOJ defines detention as the temporary confinement of individuals and incarceration as the imprisonment of individuals convicted and sentenced for federal crimes. The U.S. Marshals Service and the BOP share the DOJ's detention responsibilities; the incarceration of federal inmates is the sole responsibility of the BOP.
As of November 2003, the BOP consisted of 103 institutions, 6 regional offices, a central office, 2 staff training centers, and 28 community corrections offices. The BOP is currently responsible for the custody and care of approximately 174,000 federal offenders.
In conducting the audit, we interviewed officials from the BOP Central Office and 3 of the 6 BOP regional offices. We conducted fieldwork or obtained information through questionnaires from 27 institutions. Additionally, we examined reported data for 82 institutions, including the Administrative Maximum Security (ADX) institution, and all Federal Correctional Institutions (FCI), Federal Prison Camps (FPC), and United States Penitentiaries (USP). We excluded Federal Detention Centers (FDC), Federal Medical Centers (FMC), Federal Transfer Centers (FTC), Metropolitan Correctional Centers (MCC), Medical Centers for Federal Prisoners (MCFP), and Metropolitan Detention Centers (MDC) because of the unique missions of these institutions.
Additional information related to our audit objectives, scope, and methodology appears in Appendix III of this report.
Summary of Audit Findings
Research conducted by both governmental and private institutions concludes that successful completion of occupational, educational, psychological, and other programs during an inmate's incarceration leads to both a reduction in recidivism and an increase in post-release employment opportunities. Research in this area also concludes that inmates who transition into the community through a CCC are less likely to recidivate. Therefore, our audit focused on whether the BOP ensures that federal inmates receive the maximum benefit from its programs designed to prepare them for successful reentry into society. Overall, our audit concluded that each BOP institution offers similar types of reentry programs that are generally recognized to reduce recidivism. However, we found that the BOP does not provide assurance that its institutions are maximizing the number of inmates that complete these programs and that all eligible inmates are provided the opportunity to transition through a CCC to help prepare them for reentry into society.
Reentry Program Completions
We reviewed the types of reentry programs offered by the BOP to prepare inmates for successful reentry into society and found that each of the 82 BOP institutions included in our audit offer a full range of occupational, educational, psychological, and other programs that, based on studies, are shown to be effective in helping inmates successfully reenter society. We found that:
Community Corrections Centers (CCC)
In addition to reentry programs offered at its institutions, the BOP provides services that assist inmates in transitioning from incarceration into the community. The primary transitional service provided by the BOP is the placement of inmates in CCCs, also known as halfway houses. Prior studies conducted by the BOP have found that CCC placement prior to release increases the chances of an inmate's successful reentry into society. The BOP's strategic plan establishes annual CCC utilization targets for its minimum, low, and medium security institutions.5 Our audit revealed that the BOP does not assure that all eligible inmates are being transitioned through a CCC. Specifically, we found that:
We make thirteen recommendations that focus on specific steps that the BOP should take to maximize the number of inmates that complete its programs designed to prepare inmates for successful reentry into society and to ensure that eligible inmates are transitioned into society through a CCC. Our recommendations include: