Semiannual Report to Congress
April 1, 2005-September 30, 2005
Office of the Inspector General
The OIG investigates many cases involving staff sexual abuse of federal inmates. In total, these cases annually comprise approximately 12 percent of the OIG's total number of investigations. The OIG conducted this review to assess the problem of sexual abuse of federal inmates by correctional staff and examine the shortcomings of current federal laws intended to deter and punish staff sexual abuse.
Federal law criminalizes all sexual relations and sexual contact between prison staff and inmates. Consent is never a legal defense for corrections staff who engage in sexual acts with inmates because federal law mandates that all sexual relations between staff and inmates are considered abuse. Even if a sexual act would have been considered consensual if it occurred outside of a prison, by statute it is criminal sexual abuse when it occurs inside a prison.
We concluded that current federal laws criminalizing staff sexual relations with federal prisoners are deficient in two critical ways. First, the crime of sexual abuse of an inmate currently is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum sentence of 1 year unless the staff member uses force or overt threats to sexually abuse the inmate. Because prison employees control many aspects of inmates' lives, in many cases prison employees obtain sex from inmates without resorting to the use of force or overt threats. Second, current federal sex abuse laws do not apply to federal inmates held in facilities under contract to the federal government rather than in BOP facilities. As a result, abuse of federal inmates held at contractor facilities sometimes goes unpunished because of limitations in current federal law.
In addition, we found that many federal prosecutors are reluctant to prosecute sexual abuse cases because the crimes are not felonies. Between FYs 2000 and 2004, the OIG presented 163 sexual abuse cases for prosecution and only 73, or 45 percent, were accepted for prosecution. Moreover, current federal laws that categorize unforced sexual abuse as a misdemeanor are out-of-step with state laws. We found that 43 states make unforced sexual relations with inmates a felony, with the average maximum sentence length approximately 10 years' imprisonment.
The OIG report recommended that the Department seek passage of legislation to make unforced sex with inmates a felony. We also recommended legislation to extend federal criminal jurisdiction to individuals who engage in a sexual act with a federal prisoner housed in a detention facility under contract to the Department. The Department and the BOP agreed with these recommendations and are seeking the necessary legislative changes.
During this reporting period, the OIG received 2,808 complaints involving the BOP. The most common allegations made against BOP employees included job performance failure, use of unnecessary force, rude treatment of inmates, official misconduct, misuse of government property, introduction of contraband, and off-duty misconduct. The vast majority of complaints dealt with non-criminal issues that the OIG referred to the BOP's Office of Internal Affairs.
At the close of the reporting period, the OIG had 233 open cases of alleged misconduct against BOP employees. The criminal investigations cover a wide range of allegations, including bribery of a public official, introduction of contraband, and sexual abuse of inmates. The following are examples of cases involving the BOP that the OIG's Investigations Division investigated during this reporting period:
Three terrorists convicted of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center allegedly wrote approximately 90 letters while incarcerated in federal prison to Islamic extremists in other countries, including inmates who had been part of a Spanish terror cell tied to the 2004 Madrid terrorist attacks. The letters, which praised Osama Bin Laden, were printed in Arabic newspapers and used to recruit other terrorists. As a result, the OIG is assessing the BOP's inmate mail screening and translation procedures to determine whether the BOP ensures that federal inmates are not using the mail system or the cover of a foreign language to continue criminal behavior, encourage the furtherance of criminal behavior, or encourage any activity that may threaten the public or national security.
The BOP currently has over 150 pharmacists who fill 4 to 5 million prescriptions per year for federal inmates. The pharmacists also are responsible for managing inventories of prescription medication and related supplies, conducting patient counseling, and maintaining patient records. The OIG is assessing whether the BOP ensures adequate controls and safeguards over prescription drugs; evaluating the BOP's efforts to reduce the rising costs of prescription drugs; and assessing whether BOP pharmacies are in compliance with applicable laws, regulations, policies, and procedures.