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The Federal Bureau of Prisons Inmate Release Preparation and Transitional Reentry Programs

Report No. 04-16
March 2004
Office of the Inspector General


Introduction

During Fiscal Year (FY) 2000 through FY 2002, 74,401 inmates were released from federal custody.6 Based on the most recent statistics available on federal inmates from the Department of Justice (DOJ) Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), approximately 16 percent of federal inmates released will return to federal prisons within 3 years.7 Further, according to the most recent study conducted by the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) on recidivism rates for federal inmates, approximately 41 percent of federal inmates released to the community were rearrested or had their parole revoked within 3 years.8

One strategic objective of the BOP is 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."9

According to the DOJ Strategic Plan, since a majority of inmates will be released at some point, it is important 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 educational, vocational, recreational, religious, and psychological programs. The BOP's inmate programs are geared, ultimately, toward preparing inmates for eventual release.

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:

  • each of the BOP's institutions maximize the number of inmates that complete programs designed to prepare them for reentry into society including occupational, educational, psychological, and other programs; and
  • all eligible inmates are provided the opportunity to transition through a Community Correction Center (CCC) in preparation for reentry into society.

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.

Incarceration and Recidivism Statistics

According to a recent BJS report, as of the end of 2001, approximately 4.3 million U.S. residents were formerly federal, state, and local prison inmates, and an additional 1.3 million are currently confined in prisons.10 Between 1974 and 2001, the number of U.S. adult residents that had ever served time in prison, including current prison inmates, increased by about 3.8 million.

There are four measures generally accepted for determining recidivism: rearrest, reconviction, resentence, and reconfinement in prison. As a part of our audit, we reviewed government and private studies conducted on recidivism; however, we found no studies on recidivism of federal inmates that are comprehensive and current.11 The most recent data available from the BJS revealed the following statistics.

  • About 61 percent of federal inmates had been convicted of a prior offense, while 39 percent had no previous prison sentence.12 Of the current federal inmates with prior convictions, 23 percent had current or prior violent convictions, and 38 percent had current or prior nonviolent convictions.
  • Additionally, 76 percent of state inmates had been convicted of prior offenses, while 24 percent had no previous prison sentence.
  • Approximately 16 percent of federal inmates released to the community will return to federal prisons within 3 years.13 Information was not available on the number of federal inmates released to the community who were subsequently imprisoned for a state offense.
  • The proportion of offenders returning to federal prisons within 3 years increased from 11 percent in 1986 to 19 percent in 1994. Of the offenders returning to prison between 1986 and 1997, 54 percent returned within 1 year of release, 34 percent within 2 years, and 12 percent within 3 years.
  • The rate at which federal inmates return to federal prison increases with the amount of time that they served prior to release.14 Overall, 14 percent of inmates that served sentences of less than 1 year returned to federal prison, as compared to 25 percent of inmates that served sentences of more than 5 years.
  • About 32 percent of federal inmates originally convicted of violent offenses return to federal prison within 3 years of release, as compared to 13 percent of drug offenders.

The most recent BOP study on recidivism rates for federal inmates indicates that about 41 percent of federal inmates released to the community were rearrested or had their parole revoked within 3 years.15 Of the 41 percent of federal inmates that recidivated, 11 percent were rearrested or had their parole revoked within 6 months after release, and 20 percent within 1 year after release.

This BOP study also identifies the variables that correlate to the likelihood that a federal inmate released to the community will recidivate. Specifically, the major findings of the study concluded that:

  • Male and female inmates recidivated at about the same rate. Forty-one percent of male inmates released recidivated, as compared to 40 percent of female inmates.
  • Older inmates were less likely to recidivate than younger inmates. Fifteen percent of inmates released that were 55 years of age or older recidivated, as compared to 57 percent of inmates that were 25 years of age or younger.
  • Inmates that were employed full time or attended school for at least 6 months within 2 years prior to incarceration were less likely to recidivate than those who did not. Twenty-seven percent of inmates released who were employed full time or attended school for at least 6 months within 2 years prior to incarceration recidivated, as compared to 60 percent of inmates who did not.
  • Inmates that were living with a spouse after release were less likely to recidivate than inmates with other living arrangements. Twenty percent of inmates released were living with a spouse recidivated, as compared to 48 percent of inmates with other living arrangements.

As demonstrated by the above studies, there are many variables associated with the likelihood that an inmate will recidivate and most of these variables are outside of the BOP's control. Therefore, in our judgment, it becomes important for the BOP to focus its resources and programs on those variables that are within its control while the inmate is in their custody to help decrease an inmate's chance of recidivism. For example, the same BOP study also found a positive correlation between recidivism and actions that relate to some extent to the programs (discussed later in this report) offered by the BOP. Specifically,

  • Inmates that successfully completed one or more educational programs every 6 months while incarcerated were less likely to recidivate than inmates who did not participate. Thirty-six percent of inmates released that successfully completed one or more educational programs every 6 months while incarcerated recidivated, as compared to 44 percent of inmates who did not participate.
  • Inmates who had arranged for employment prior to release were less likely to recidivate than inmates who did not. Twenty-eight percent of inmates released that had arranged for employment prior to release recidivated, as compared to 54 percent of inmates who did not.
  • Inmates transitioned into the community through a CCC were less likely to recidivate than inmates released directly to the community. Thirty-one percent of inmates released that were transitioned into the community through a CCC recidivated, as compared to 51 percent of inmates that were released directly to the community.

As a part of our audit, we reviewed additional studies on the effectiveness of reentry programs to determine the types of programs that are most likely to prepare inmates for successful reentry into society. We compared these studies to the programs offered by the BOP. Based on our comparison, we determined that the BOP offers a full range of occupational, educational, psychological, and other programs that are shown to prepare inmates for successful reentry into society. The studies as they relate to the types of programs offered by the BOP are discussed in the following sections of this report.

BOP Reentry Programs

For FY 2003, the BOP received funding of $216 million for all inmate programs, which equates to about 5 percent of the BOP's $4.5 billion total agency budget.16 Of the $216 million budgeted for inmate programs, $148 million was designated for reintegration efforts that include occupational and educational programs, psychological support programs, release preparation programs, and other programs that are geared towards preparing inmates for reentry into society and increasing post-release employment opportunities. This amount represents an increase of $23 million (19 percent) of the total BOP reintegration funding from FY 2002.

The following sections provide an overview of each of the reentry programs offered by the BOP and the studies on recidivism that we found are associated with these types of program. Almost all of the studies found a positive correlation between the kind of program offered by the BOP and a reduction in recidivism. It should also be noted that several of the programs offered by the BOP are similar to programs or services that are offered by the community to non-inmates, such as General Educational Development (GED) and English?as-a-Second Language (ESL).

Occupational and Educational Programs

The following studies support a link between occupational and educational programs and successful reentry of inmates upon release into the community.

  • The Practice and Promise of Prison Programming17 - The results of this study indicate that the majority of research studies that evaluated prison programming support the hypothesis that inmate participation in occupational and educational programs leads to a reduction in recidivism and an increase in employment opportunities, as shown in the following table.
THE EFFECTIVENESS OF
CORRECTIONAL PROGRAMMING
Occupational Programs
  • 9 of 13 studies found participants were less likely to recidivate
  • 5 of 7 studies found participants were more likely to be employed after release
Pre-College Education (Elementary/Secondary/GED)
  • 9 of 14 studies found participants were less likely to recidivate
  • 3 of 4 studies found participants were more likely to be employed after release
College-Level Education
  • 10 of 14 studies found an inverse relationship between college education and recidivism
  • 3 of 3 studies found participants more likely to be employed after release
Source: The Urban Institute, Justice Policy Center, The Practice and
Promise of Prison Programming
, dated May 2002.
  • PREP: Training Inmates through Industrial Work Participation, and Vocational and Apprenticeship Instruction18 - This study was designed to evaluate the impact of prison work experience and occupational and apprenticeship training on an inmate's behavior upon release into the community. The results of this study indicate that prison programs have a positive impact on post-release employment and recidivism. The inmates who worked in prison industries or participated in an occupational or apprenticeship training program were 14 percent more likely to be employed 12 months after release than statistically similar inmates who did not participate. Additionally, inmates who worked in prison industries or participated in an occupational or apprenticeship training program were 35 percent less likely to recidivate within the first 12 months (6.6 percent vs. 10.1 percent). Further, inmates who worked in prison industries were 24 percent less likely to recidivate in the long term (8 to 12 years), and inmates who participated in an occupational or apprenticeship program were 33 percent less likely to recidivate in the long term.
  • Three State Recidivism Study19 - The preliminary results of this study support the hypotheses that inmates who participate in educational programs have lower rearrest, reconviction, and reincarceration rates than those offenders that do not participate. The study found that: (1) 48 percent of inmates who participated in educational programs were rearrested, as compared to 57 percent of those who did not participate; (2) 27 percent of inmates who participated in educational programs were reconvicted, as compared to 35 percent of inmates who did not participate; and (3) 22 percent of inmates who participated in educational programs were reincarcerated, as compared to 31 percent of inmates who did not participate.
  • Recidivism Among Federal Prisoners Released in 198720 - This study found that among other characteristics related to recidivism, inmates that successfully completed one or more educational programs every 6 months while incarcerated were less likely to recidivate than inmates who did not participate. Overall, 36 percent of inmates released that successfully completed one or more educational programs every 6 months while incarcerated recidivated, as compared to 44 percent of inmates who did not participate.
  • Prison Education Program Participation and Recidivism: A Test of the Normalization Hypothesis21 - This study concludes that there is a three-way relationship between inmate participation in educational programs, the level of education achieved while incarcerated, and recidivism. The study found that a much larger percentage of persons sentenced to federal prisons (43 percent) are in need of a high school degree or equivalent to function adequately in society than the general U.S. population (14 percent). The study also found that 30 percent of inmates who completed an average of 0.5 education courses per each 6 months of confinement recidivated, as compared to 45 percent of inmates who completed no education courses during confinement. We compared the types of reentry programs offered by the BOP with the studies and research noted above and found that the BOP offers a wide range of occupational and educational programs that correspond to the types of activities shown to help prepare inmates for successful reentry into society, as described below.
  • Occupational Programs - BOP policy requires that each institution provide occupational programs that allow interested inmates the opportunity to obtain marketable skills to enhance employment opportunities after release into the community.22 These occupational programs also contribute to the operation and maintenance of the BOP institutions. Not all occupational programs are offered at each institution; however, the wide variety of occupational programs offered to inmates by the BOP includes those listed in the following table.
Occupational Programs
  • Computer Skills
  • Business Management
  • Computer Aided Drafting
  • Culinary Arts
  • Housekeeping
  • Building Maintenance
  • Auto and Small Engine Mechanics
  • Dentistry
  • Horticulture and Landscaping
  • Barbering and Cosmetology
  • Small Appliance Repair
  • Construction and Carpentry
  • Masonry
  • Plumbing, Electrical and Welding
  • Federal Prison Industries - According to the Federal Prison Industries, Inc. (FPI) Annual Report, "It is the mission of the FPI to employ and provide job skills training to the greatest practicable number of inmates confined within the BOP; [and] contribute to the safety and security of our Nation's federal correctional facilities by keeping inmates constructively occupied . . ." In its annual budget the BOP establishes goals for the number of inmates employed by the FPI. During FY 2002, the number of inmates employed by the FPI was 21,778 (13 percent of total BOP inmates), and the goal for FY 2003 was 24,788. The FPI includes work skills programs related to the areas listed in the following table.
Federal Prisons Industries Programs
and Number of Inmates Employed in FY 2002
Industrial Program Inmates
Employed
Clothing and Textiles 6,665
Electronics 3,171
Fleet Management/Vehicular Components 1,706
Graphics 930
Industrial Products 1,816
Office Furniture 5,304
Recycling Activities 833
Services 1,020
Customer Service & Support 333
Total 21,778
Source: The BOP FPI, 2002 Annual Report.
  • Inmate Work Program - The BOP operates inmate work programs within all of its institutions. BOP policy requires that every medically able inmate will be assigned to a work program and perform work activities that contribute to the operation of the institution.23 In its annual budget the BOP establishes goals for the percent of medically able inmates that are employed. For FY 2002 and FY 2003, the goal was 100 percent. According to BOP policy, the purpose of the BOP's inmate work programs is to reduce inmate idleness while allowing inmates to improve or develop useful job skills, work habits, and work experience that will assist the inmate in finding employment upon release into the community. The inmate work programs also ensure that the day-to-day tasks associated with operating the institution are completed.
  • Literacy Program - Individuals without a basic level of education frequently encounter serious difficulty in obtaining employment. Therefore, the BOP requires that each inmate should have the opportunity to complete a literacy program leading to a GED certificate and/or high school diploma.24 The intent of this policy is to provide inmates with the basic literacy skills necessary to compete for employment.
  • English-as-a-Second Language Program - Pursuant to federal statute, limited English proficient inmates confined in federal institutions are required to attend an ESL program until they can function at the equivalent of the eighth-grade level on a nationally recognized education achievement test.25 The BOP also requires that inmates with limited English proficiency skills will be afforded the opportunity to enhance their communication skills through its ESL programs.26
  • Adult Continuing Education Programs - The BOP offers a variety of Adult Continuing Education (ACE) programs in formal instructional classes that provide inmates with learning in areas that may be of special interest. Inmates rather than education staff members teach many ACE courses, which enables the BOP to offer a large number of these courses. The type of ACE programs offered to inmates by the BOP includes those listed in the table on the following page.
Adult Continuing Education Programs
  • Foreign Languages
  • Mathematics
  • Commercial Drivers License
  • Writing
  • Finance
  • History
  • Legal Research
  • Literature
  • Public Speaking
  • Chess
  • Motivation
  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)
  • Typing
  • Sign Language
  • Floral Design
  • Health
  • Life Skills
  • Time Management
  • Postsecondary Education Programs - Postsecondary education programs generally include correspondence courses provided through junior or community colleges, 4-year colleges and universities, and postsecondary vocational or technical schools. Inmates are expected to pay the tuition for these postsecondary programs from personal funds or other sources such as scholarship awards provided through FPI programs.
  • Parenting Program - The BOP requires that parenting programs be provided in all institutions.27 The BOP parenting programs are expected to promote and reinforce positive relationships, family values, and mutual support among inmates and their spouses that may be sustained after the inmate is released into the community.

Psychological Programs

In addition to occupational and educational programs, BOP policy requires that psychology services within each institution be sufficient to ensure that every inmate with a documented need or interest in psychological treatment has access to a level of care comparable to that offered in the community.28 Through its psychology services, the BOP seeks to create an environment where inmates can develop habits and skills that will make them more productive members of society upon release to the community.

According to the BOP, the main priority of the BOP's psychology services is acute crisis intervention. However, the BOP also provides counseling services, including individual or group treatment. At a minimum, a psychology services staff member must screen all inmates entering into a BOP institution within 14 days (30 days for transferred inmates). Additionally, the BOP offers the following psychological programs.

  • Drug Abuse Education Program - This program provides inmates with specific instruction on the risks involved with drug use and abuse, and presents strategies toward living a drug free lifestyle while introducing the inmate to the concepts of drug treatment and motivating the inmate to enter and participate in the BOP's Residential Drug Abuse Treatment Program.
  • Residential Drug Abuse Treatment Program - This program is designed for intensive drug abuse treatment. Inmates are housed separately in residential drug abuse treatment units for up to 12 months. The specialized drug units provide extensive assessment, treatment planning, and individual and group counseling.
  • Non-Residential Drug Abuse Treatment Program - This program consists of both group and individual therapy delivered through the psychology services department in each institution. This program offers flexibility to inmates who are not eligible for or do not choose to enter the BOP's Residential Drug Abuse Treatment Program. Non?residential treatment services are also provided as a follow-up to the BOP's Residential Drug Abuse Treatment Program while inmates are awaiting release.
  • Transitional Drug Abuse Treatment Program - This program was developed for successful Residential Drug Abuse Treatment Program graduates who are released to the community under BOP custody. The continuation of treatment, through community?based drug treatment, is required of these inmates during their transition back into society. Additionally, the community transition program now accepts inmates who have not participated in a Residential Drug Abuse Treatment Program but have later been identified to be in need of drug abuse treatment.
  • Sex Offender Management Plan - The Sex Offender Management Plan is a comprehensive management strategy for all sex offenders incarcerated in BOP institutions. The purpose of the program is to increase institution security and ensure effective transition of inmates into the community.
  • Sex Offender Treatment Program - The Sex Offender Treatment Program is a residential program offered at FCI Butner to help sex offenders manage their sexual deviance in order to reduce recidivism. The program is based on the notion that, while there is probably no permanent cure, criminal sexual behavior can be effectively managed in most cases through a combination of treatment and intensive supervision.
  • Challenge, Opportunity, Discipline and Ethics (CODE) Program - The CODE program is a residential treatment program offered in high security institutions designed for inmates whose psychological distress, mental illness or neurocognitive deficits interfere with the inmate's ability to adjust satisfactorily to incarceration. The program is designed to teach inmates basic core values such as respect for self and others, responsibility for personal actions, honesty in relationships with others, and tolerance towards the actions of others.
  • E-CODE Program - The E-CODE program is an intensive, multi-phase, non-residential and residential treatment program for maximum security inmates. The purpose of the program is to teach inmates self-discipline, the value of conforming to pro-social lifestyles, and changing negative thoughts and behaviors that lead to incarceration-related problems. The program is designed to manage and treat violent and predatory inmates housed at USP Marion.
  • Impulsive-Aggressive CODE Pilot - The Impulsive-Aggressive CODE Pilot is a residential program designed to identify inmates with impulsive-aggressive disorders and to provide effective treatment and management to reduce their maladaptive behavior.
  • Bureau Responsibility and Values Enhancement Program (BRAVE) - The BRAVE program was established in response to the BOP's research which revealed that medium security inmates 30 years old or younger have the greatest difficulty adapting to institution rules. The goals of the BRAVE program are to: (1) assist in the adjustment of medium security inmates entering the BOP custody for the first time; (2) improve institutional adjustment and reduce incidents of misconduct through organized activities that promote positive behavior; and (3) identify psychological disorders that may contribute to criminal activity and poor institutional adjustment, and provide appropriate clinical intervention.
  • Skills Program - The Skills Program is a specialized treatment program for inmates that have significant learning and social functioning deficits. The Skills Program is a cooperative working arrangement between unit, education, recreation, and psychology staff. The primary program components include: (1) assessment and orientation, (2) intensive treatment that includes relational, academic, and wellness skill building, and (3) transitional planning. Additionally, the Skills Program includes the use of well-screened inmate mentors.
  • New Pathways Program - The New Pathways Program was established in response to research concluding that many women with criminal and substance histories also have a history of sexual, psychological and/or physical abuse, either as children or adults. The objectives of the New Pathways Program are to treat the trauma resulting from sexual, psychological, or physical abuse and to assist female inmates in developing the skills that will lead to independence and healthy decision making.

The following studies support a link between the BOP's psychological programs, inmate misconduct, and successful reentry of inmates into the community.

  • Triad Drug Treatment Evaluation Project, Final Report of Three-Year Outcomes29 - This report is based on inmates who had been released from BOP custody for 3 years. The report revealed that male inmates who completed the Residential Drug Abuse Treatment Program and had been released to the community for a minimum of 3 years were 16 percent less likely to be rearrested and use drugs than those inmates who had not received treatment. Female inmates who completed the Residential Drug Abuse Treatment Program and had been released to the community for a minimum of 3 years were 18 percent less likely to be rearrested, and 17 percent less likely to use drugs, than those inmates who had not received treatment.
  • Technical Report for Preliminary Results From the Evaluation of the Beckley Responsibility and Values Enforcement (BRAVE) Program30 - The major finding of this evaluation was that inmates who participated in the BRAVE program had substantially lower rates of misconduct when compared to all other inmates who met the criteria used to select participants for the program that were incarcerated in the BOP during the same time period. The study found that inmates who participated in the BRAVE program, overall, had an average misconduct rate that was 26 percent lower than the comparison group. The study concluded that since inmates are directly designated into the BRAVE program upon incarceration, the lower misconduct rate could be attributed to the program itself.

The study also found that 87 percent of the inmates successfully completed the program and the rate of misconduct among inmates successfully completing the program was 55 percent lower than the comparison group.

  • Misconduct Rates by Drug Abuse Program (DAP) graduates in USPs31 - This review of misconduct rates among DAP graduates revealed a substantial decline in the rate of misconduct among USP inmates after graduation. Overall, the rate of misconduct among these inmates was 49 percent lower after they had graduated from DAP. For these inmates, the rate of violent offenses was reduced by 46 to 54 percent depending on the level of offense, the rate of drug offenses was reduced by 57 percent, the rate of alcohol offenses was reduced by 35 percent, the rate of refusal/insubordination offenses was reduced by 55 percent, and the rate of other offenses was reduced by 44 percent.

Release Preparation Program

To prepare inmates for final release into the community, the BOP implemented the Release Preparation Program (RPP).32 The purpose of the RPP is to provide inmates with the basic information and contacts necessary for successful reentry into society and the work force. The BOP requires each institution to have a RPP for all sentenced inmates reentering into the community, with the exception of administrative maximum security institutions. Each institution is responsible for developing the curriculum for its RPP to suit the specific needs of its inmates. However, the RPP must be based on core topics and include courses for each of the following six broad categories: (1) health and nutrition, (2) employment, (3) personal finance and consumer skills, (4) information and community resources, (5) release requirements and procedures, and (6) personal growth and development. BOP policy requires that eligible inmates enroll in the RPP no later than 30 months prior to release to the community or a CCC.

The expected results of the RPP are that:

  • inmates will participate in the RPP to enhance their chances for successful reintegration into society;
  • the BOP will provide releasing inmates with information, programs, and services by entering into partnerships with private industry, other federal agencies, community services providers, and CCCs; and
  • inmate recidivism will be reduced through participation in the RPP and contact with community resources.

All sentenced inmates committed to BOP custody are required to participate in the RPP except those: (1) committed for study and observation; (2) committed to the BOP serving a sentence of 6 months or less; (3) committed to the BOP with a sentence of "death"; (4) confined in an administrative maximum security institution; or (5) deportable aliens.

The BOP requires that its unit staff strongly encourage and support inmate participation in the institution's RPP. Inmates who refuse to participate in the RPP are considered to lack the responsibility necessary for CCC placement and will not ordinarily participate in these types of community-based programs.

The BOP has not conducted any studies related to successful participation in its RPP and recidivism.

Inmate Placement Program

The BOP's Inmate Placement Program was established because many inmates do not have basic skills necessary to secure and retain employment after release. Many BOP institutions hold mock job fairs at which inmates are interviewed by recruiters from real companies. The mock job fairs assist inmates in developing interviewing skills. The Inmate Placement Program also assists inmates in preparing employment portfolios that include a resume, education certificates, diplomas, transcripts, and other documents necessary for employment.

The BOP contracted for three studies of its mock job fairs conducted at FCI Terminal Island, FPC Phoenix, and FCI Big Spring.33 All three studies generally concluded that inmate participation in mock job fairs: (1) increased their awareness of employment opportunities that are available to them upon release into the community, (2) provided them with tools to assist them in finding employment upon release into the community, and (3) increased their self-confidence and self-esteem. The studies also concluded that after participating in the mock job fairs, employers perceived inmates as confident, motivated, and employable, rather than as "ex?cons" and "felons."

The BOP Inmate Placement Program Branch also conducted surveys related to inmates that participated in mock job fairs prior to their release. The surveys were conducted by sending questionnaires to the probation officers of inmates that had participated in a mock job fair during incarceration. The BOP survey results revealed that as of June 2001, 69 percent of inmates had jobs with an average monthly income of $1,288, and only 7 percent of inmates had been reincarcerated. The second year study revealed that as of May 2002, 61 percent of the inmates had jobs with an average monthly income of $1,552, and again only 7 percent of inmates had been reincarcerated. The surveys of inmates participating in mock job fairs do not include an scientific correlation between inmate participation in mock job fairs and post-release employment. Further, the surveys do not include a comparison group consisting of inmates who did not participate in a mock job fair during incarceration.

Faith-Based Programs

One BOP Strategic Objective is to "ensure reasonable accommodations exist for all recognized faith groups."34 Further, BOP policy requires its institutions to provide inmates of all faith groups with reasonable and equitable opportunities to pursue religious beliefs and practices, within the constraints of budgetary limitations and consistent with the security level and orderly operation of the institution.35 The BOP provides religious services and meeting times for numerous faith groups. Inmates can also participate in self-improvement forums such as scripture study and religious workshops. Additionally, the BOP also offers the following residential faith-based program.

  • Life Connections Program - The BOP recently established the Life Connections Program. According to the BOP, the purpose of the program is to foster personal growth and responsibility, and to use the inmate's faith commitment "to bring reconciliation and restoration to the relationship among the victim, inmate, and the community." Additionally, inmates are connected with faith-based support groups in the community in which they will be released. The program goals are to change behavior, improve adjustment to incarceration, and reduce recidivism. The BOP has established a FY 2003 goal of 545 inmates participating in a Life Connections program in its budget.

Recreational Programs

BOP policy requires its institutions to encourage inmates to use their leisure time effectively by offering a variety of activities, including sports, wellness, arts, and hobby crafts.36 The expected results of offering recreational activities to inmates are that the programs will: (1) keep inmates occupied and reduce idleness; (2) enhance the physical, emotional, and social well being of inmates; (3) encourage and assist inmates in adopting healthy lifestyles through participation in physical fitness and health education programs; and (4) decrease the need for inmate medical treatment.

Community Corrections Centers (CCC)

In addition to programs offered at its institutions, the BOP provides services that assist inmates in transitioning from incarceration into the community. The primary transitional service is the placement of inmates in CCCs, also known as halfway houses. BOP policy requires that eligible inmates should be released to the community through a CCC, unless there is some impediment outlined by the BOP.37

According to the BOP, during the transitional period at a CCC inmate activities are closely monitored while inmates are provided with a suitable residence, structured programs, job placement, and counseling. Further, all CCCs offer drug testing and counseling for alcohol and drug-related problems. During their stay, inmates are required to pay a subsistence charge to defer the cost of their confinement in a CCC (25 percent of their gross income, not to exceed the average daily cost of their CCC placement).

We found that the following studies support a link between the BOP's transitional services offered through CCC placement and recidivism.

  • PREP: Training Inmates through Industrial Work Participation, and Vocational and Apprenticeship Instruction38 - The results of this study indicate a link between inmates who transition into the community through the BOP's CCC placement program and post?release employment. The study found that 87 percent of inmates who transitioned into the community through a CCC achieved full-time employment, as compared to 62 percent of inmates who were released directly into the community. Further, an additional 9 percent of inmates who transitioned into the community through a CCC achieved day labor, as compared to 1 percent of inmates who were released directly into the community.
  • Recidivism Among Federal Prisoners Released in 198739 - This study found that among other characteristics related to recidivism, inmates transitioned into the community through a CCC were less likely to recidivate than inmates released directly to the community. Thirty-one percent of inmates that were transitioned into the community through a CCC recidivated, as compared to 51 percent of inmates that were released directly to the community.

Release Planning

The BOP has implemented a unit management concept to manage and encourage inmate participation in its reentry programs. Under the unit management concept, multi?discipline unit teams determine an inmate's program needs and monitor the inmate's participation in programs that encourage pro-social behaviors that benefit the inmates, staff, and the community. The unit teams make decisions concerning supervision, work assignments, and programming for the inmate, and at a minimum include the unit manager, a case manager, and a counselor. Additionally, an education advisor and psychology services representative are generally members of the teams.

The BOP requires that each newly committed inmate be scheduled for an initial classification within 4 weeks of the inmate's arrival at the institution. The initial classification occurs at a meeting with the unit team, at which time the preliminary release preparation needs of the inmate are assessed and the preparation of federal inmates for reentry into society begins.

In preparation for the initial classification, the BOP requires the unit team to prepare a program review report. This report ordinarily includes information on the apparent needs of the inmate and offers a correctional program designed to meet those needs. In our review of inmate case files, we found that generally the inmate's initial classification program review report includes information on: (1) work requirements, (2) RPP requirements, (3) educational and occupational program requirements, and (4) CCC recommendations. According to BOP policy, the correctional program plans are required to be stated in measurable terms, establishing time limits, performance levels, and specific expected program accomplishments.

The primary source of data used to determine inmate's needs at the time of initial classification is the Presentence Investigation Report prepared by the U.S. Probation Office. The Presentence Investigation Report includes information related to the inmate's: (1) criminal history, (2) substance abuse, (3) education, (4) vocational skills, and (5) employment history.

According to the BOP, release planning and preparation begins with the initial classification and is reassessed throughout confinement during program reviews conducted by the unit team. The unit team is required to conduct a program review for each inmate at least once every 180 days. Further, the unit team is required to conduct a program review at least every 90 days when an inmate is within 12 months of the inmate's projected release date. At the time of the program review, the unit team also prepares a report that documents the inmate's progress toward expected program accomplishments and any program changes identified during the program review process.

However, regardless of the BOP's emphasis on release preparation and planning, the inmate may choose not to participate in the offered programs, unless the program is a work assignment, mandated by federal statute, court order, or BOP policy. Programs mandated by federal statute are the literacy program for inmates who do not have a verified GED credential or high school diploma and the ESL program. Further, federal statute requires that 100 percent of eligible inmates participate in drug treatment programs.

During our audit, we found that at the institutions we visited release planning was continuous from initial classification through final release as documented in inmate files. Additionally, our review of the inmate program review reports included in the inmate files indicated that the BOP staff strongly encouraged participation in its reentry programs.

Inmate Skills Development Re-engineering Initiative

In May 2000, the BOP established an Inmate Skills Development Re?engineering Workgroup to examine how the BOP could improve efforts to equip inmates with the necessary skills to succeed upon release. The purpose of the re?engineering workgroup was to conduct an investigation of successful agencies, institutions, and programs, as well as, literature and other research, to identify best practices related to preparation of inmates for release into the community. The workgroup also utilized focus groups throughout the BOP to assist in the identification of the necessary inmate skills including, educational, vocational, interpersonal, leisure time, cognitive, wellness, and mental health.

Based on the recommendation of the re-engineering workgroup, in June 2003, the BOP established the Inmate Skills Development branch within the Correctional Programs Division. The mission of the Inmate Skills Development Branch is to "coordinate the [BOP's] efforts to implement inmate skill development initiatives and provide a centralized point of liaison with external agencies to equip inmates with the necessary skills to succeed upon release."

In order to achieve its mission the Inmate Skills Development branch has been charged with the (1) development of an inmate skill assessment process which includes the design of an individualized skill development plan to monitor progress; (2) coordination of program linkage to address skill needs; and (3) collaborative partnership building to assist with community transition.

To accurately evaluate inmate abilities and assess reentry needs, the BOP has developed an Inmate Skills Assessment Tool. The assessment tool was demonstrated over a six-month period at six institutions (one within each of the BOP's six regions) representing a wide range in security levels and male and female inmates. Currently, the BOP's Office of Research and Evaluation is conducting an evaluation of the assessment tool and related data.


Footnotes
  1. The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), Key Indicators, A Strategic Support System of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Volume 14, Number 1, January 2003. The BOP's Key Indicators system provides statistical information related to inmate programs, strategic goals and outcomes, inmate population characteristics, etc., to assist in the management and monitoring of the BOP and its institutions.
  2. The DOJ BJS, Special Report, Offenders Returning to Federal Prisons, 1986-97, dated September 2000.
  3. The BOP, Recidivism Among Federal Prisoners Released in 1987, dated August 4, 1994.
  4. The BOP, State of the Bureau 2002, Accomplishments and Goals.
  5. The DOJ BJS, Special Report, Prevalence of Imprisonment in the U.S. Population, 1974-2001, dated August 2003.
  6. The most recent study on recidivism of federal inmates, the DOJ BJS Special Report Offenders Returning to Federal Prisons, 1986-97, dated September 2000, does not include information on federal inmates released to the community who were subsequently imprisoned for a state offense. Further, the study does not contain any information on inmates who were rearrested or reconvicted. The most recent comprehensive study on recidivism rates of federal inmates, the BOP's Recidivism Among Federal Prisoners Released in 1987, dated August 4, 1994, was issued 9 years ago and was based on inmates released over 16 years ago.
  7. The DOJ BJS, Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics, 2000.
  8. The DOJ BJS, Special Report, Offenders Returning to Federal Prisons, 1986-97, dated September 2000.
  9. The DOJ BJS, Special Report, Offenders Returning to Federal Prisons, 1986-97, dated September 2000.
  10. The BOP, Recidivism Among Federal Prisoners Released in 1987, dated August 4, 1994. It should be noted that federal inmates that are rearrested are not necessarily reincarcerated in federal prisons, which is why the recidivism rate based on rearrest is significantly higher than the recidivism rate based on federal inmates that are reincarcerated in federal prisons.
  11. This amount does not include funding for Federal Prison Industries (FPI), which is self funded.
  12. The Urban Institute, Justice Policy Center, The Practice and Promise of Prison Programming, dated May 2002.
  13. The BOP, Office of Research and Evaluation, PREP: Training Inmates through Industrial Work Participation, and Vocational and Apprenticeship Instruction, dated September 24, 1996.
  14. The U.S. Department of Education, Office of Correctional Education, Three State Recidivism Study, Preliminary Summary Report, dated September 30, 2001.
  15. The BOP, Office of Research and Evaluation, Recidivism Among Federal Prisoners Released in 1987, dated August 4, 1994.
  16. The BOP, Office of Research and Evaluation, Prison Education Program Participation and Recidivism: A Test of the Normalization Hypotheses, dated May 1995.
  17. BOP Program Statement No. 5300.18, Occupational Education Programs, dated December 23, 1996.
  18. BOP Program Statement No. 5251.05, Inmate Work and Performance Pay, dated December 7, 1998.
  19. BOP Program Statement No. 5300.21, Education, Training and Leisure Time Program Standards, dated February 18, 2002.
  20. The Crime Control Act of 1990, codified in 18 U.S.C 3624 (f).
  21. BOP Program Statement No. 5350.24, English-as-a-Second Language Program, dated July 24, 1997.
  22. BOP Program Statement No. 5355.03, Parenting Program Standards, dated January 20, 1995.
  23. BOP Program Statement No. 5310.12, Psychology Services Manual, dated August 30, 1993.
  24. The BOP, Triad Drug Treatment Evaluation Project, Final Report of Three-Year Outcomes, dated September 2000.
  25. The BOP, Office of Research and Evaluation, Technical Report for Preliminary Results from the Evaluation of the Beckley Responsibility and Values Enhancement (BRAVE) Program, (not dated).
  26. The BOP, Office of Research and Evaluation, memorandum, Misconduct rates by DAP graduates in USPs, dated October 8, 1996.
  27. BOP Program Statement No. 5325.06, Release Preparation Program, dated March 4, 2002.
  28. Workplace Learning Resource Center, First Annual Mock Job Fair, "Gateway to Success, Federal Correctional Institution Terminal Island, dated December 15, 1998; Development Systems Corporation, Mock Job Fair, FCI Big Spring, dated May 17, 1999; and Development Systems Corporation, Mock Job Fair, FPC Phoenix, dated May 26, 1999.
  29. The BOP, State of the Bureau 2002, Accomplishments and Goals.
  30. BOP Program Statement No. 5360.08, Religious Beliefs and Practices, dated May 25, 2001.
  31. BOP Program Statement No. 5370.10, Recreation Programs, Inmate, dated February 23, 2000.
  32. BOP Program Statement No. 7310.04, Community Corrections Center (CCC) Utilization and Transfer Procedure, dated December 16, 1998.
  33. The BOP, Office of Research and Evaluation, PREP: Training Inmates through Industrial Work Participation, and Vocational and Apprenticeship Instruction, dated September 24, 1996.
  34. The BOP, Office of Research and Evaluation, Recidivism Among Federal Prisoners Released in 1987, dated August 4, 1994.