Sentencing Law and Policy is being used to bring light to the need for independent oversight of the federal Bureau of Prisons.
In this post, Professor Berman highlights key points from Kevin Ring’s article with “The Hill” on the same issue
Lack of Response From Federal Prison
If you have a loved one on the inside of the federal correctional institution, you are not alone. In the United States, there are 160,000 families trying to support, stay connected and act on behalf of someone in Bureau of Prison’s custody. Ring’s article indicates that most have experienced what Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) discovered.
After waiting nine months for a reply to his concern, all he received was silence. Rubio continues to pursue answers to the alleged sexual assaults on women in Colman.
A System Gone Awry
While we have privatized some of our federal prisons, there is a step-child relationship to The Department of Justice, who must provide the interpretation of the law.
While there is a senate Judiciary committee designed to provide oversight of the BOP, the hearings are rarely informative or helpful. This leads to a severe lack of accountability and transparency.
New Possibilities in the Federal Prison System
According to Ring, creating an independent body to oversee the agency, would enable families to have their needs and concerns heard.
Some states have similar programs in place, where ombudsman, appointed officials, navigate the oversight of prison facilities.
The independent ombudsman could enter and inspect facilities without notice, interview staff and incarcerated people, look at records and make recommendations.
The ability to facilitate grievances could lessen the number of lawsuits and create an avenue of communication between families and their loved ones on the inside of the prison walls.
Covid-19 Highlights Need for Federal Prison Accountability
With Covid-19 running rampant in many of the BOP facilities, the time for independent oversight is sorely overdue.
Incarcerated people are infected by the coronavirus at a rate more than five times higher than the nation’s overall rate. The death rate of inmates is also higher than the national rate.
While there are many ways to use numbers to represent the details, sometimes it is the personal stories that we need to hear. Andrea Circle Bear contracted Covid while incarcerated and 8 months pregnant. She was the first woman to die of the disease in the federal prison system. Her baby was born while she was ventilated. As she died, her family was called to come and pick up the newborn.
It is time for accountability and the insight into our federal prison system. It is easy to turn a blind eye. A pandemic has highlighted our duty to protect, care and rehabilitate these members of our society.