Senators press Garland to quickly confront misconduct at federal prisons
Leaders of both parties on the Senate Judiciary Committee are asking the Department of Justice (DOJ) to reform the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) as they launch their own probe into misconduct allegations at a number of facilities.
The joint letter from Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and ranking member Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) points to reporting from The Associated Press documenting widespread allegations of abuse as well as whistleblower allegations made directly to the committee.
“These failures have been extensively detailed in a series of articles by the Associated Press (AP), which reported that more than 100 federal prison workers have been arrested, charged, or convicted of crimes since 2019, including sexual abuse, murder, and introducing contraband into BOP facilities. These cases reportedly constitute two-thirds of criminal cases against Department of Justice (DOJ) personnel, even though BOP employees make up less than one-third of DOJ’s workforce,” the lawmakers noted.
Of 41 arrests of DOJ employees since 2019, 28 were of BOP personnel or contractors.
The Department of Justice has begun a number of investigations into state-run prisons, including allegation of violence in Georgia prisons and a women’s prison in New Jersey where inmates had alleged sexual abuse by staff.
But the committee asks Attorney General Merrick Garland to conduct similar oversight of federally-run facilities, asking about employee hiring, screening and training, and the handling of whistleblower complaints.
It also asks for a detail breakdown of sexual assault allegations and how they were handled by DOJ.
“BOP employs more than 36,000 individuals, the majority of whom are honest and dutiful. Still, the misconduct of even a small percentage of BOP staff can ravage the lives of individuals in the Bureau’s custody and damage the reputation and credibility of the institution,” the lawmakers wrote.
“We urge you to immediately review alleged misconduct by BOP staff and take action to ensure appropriate discipline.”
DOJ did not immediately respond to request for comment.