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March 2006

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This article is in the news archives --- for current news go to the Third Branch News.


Director Addresses Change Within BOP

Harley G. Lappin was appointed Director of the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) in 2003. Lappin joined the BOP in 1985, and was formerly Regional Director for the Mid-Atlantic Region.

Q: Like the Judiciary, the Bureau of Prisons is dealing with a limited budget. What is the BOP doing to stay within budget? Are these reductions likely to impact the Judiciary?

A: For the last several years, the Bureau has been working with constrained budgets. In addition to taking measures to reduce normal operating costs (e.g., reducing travel and purchases of non-essential supplies and equipment), we have undertaken a number of streamlining, consolidation, and cost-reduction initiatives. Several of the initiatives are well underway: management re-engineering, which has resulted in our abolishing 667 management positions to date and improved the supervisor-to-line staff ratio; closure of four stand-alone federal prison camps; discontinuation of three Intensive Confinement Center (ICC) programs—the boot camp programs; consolidation of human resource functions; centralization of sentence computation and inmate designation activities; and identification of mission-critical posts on the correctional roster that would be vacated only under rare circumstances (expected to substantially reduce overtime costs).

We must continue implementing the cost-reduction and streamlining initiatives that we have started and find ways to keep costs as low as possible, without compromising the safety and security of our institutions. The Bureau remains fully committed to the principles of bringing on new prison beds to reduce crowding and staffing positions that have direct contact with inmates.

We recognize the concern voiced by some members of the Judiciary, especially with respect to discontinuing the ICC program. However, the fact remains that ICCs were costly to operate and no more effective in reducing recidivism than ordinary minimum-security facilities. Operating traditional minimum security beds in lieu of ICCs requires fewer staff and allows us to confine more inmates.

Q: Why is the BOP consolidating sentence computation and designation functions?

A: The Bureau has received questions regarding our plan for consolidating sentence computation and designation functions in Grand Prairie, Texas, so I want to take this opportunity to share our expectations regarding benefits that will be achieved, as well as our vision for this process. When the Bureau assumed responsibility for District of Columbia Superior Court felons, we centralized the sentence computation process for those inmates. We learned many lessons from this centralized approach, and we are using the same framework to move forward with this concept on a national level.

The Designation and Sentence Computation Center (DSCC) will join other consolidated functions located in Grand Prairie. This consolidation is expected to improve consistency, enhance management and oversight, and yield cost efficiencies by developing a cadre of highly-skilled staff at one location. The Bureau has begun to relocate staff from our community corrections offices and institutions to the DSCC. These staff are already processing sentence computations for newly activated institutions and other select Bureau facilities.

Once centralized, the designation process will essentially remain the same. The Bureau will still rely on the U.S. Marshal Service (USMS) to notify us that a prisoner is ready to be designated; and we will still need and use the information provided in the presentence report, Statement of Reasons, Judgment in a Criminal Case, violation reports, etc. We will fully utilize available technology to coordinate and manage a centralized process.

During FY 2005, our community corrections offices processed almost 75,000 requests for designation. Managing this volume of paper documents at one location is not efficient or cost-effective, whereas electronic file management is expeditious. Similarly, electronic routing of documents would eliminate time and expense associated with mail delivery.

Q: In December 2002, the BOP implemented a significant procedure change regarding inmate designations to Community Correction Centers (CCCs). What changed? And how is this working?

A: On December 20, 2002, the Bureau changed its procedure for designating inmates to CCCs for service of prison sentences. The changes were two-fold: first, inmates sentenced to terms of imprisonment may no longer be directly designated to CCCs, even when recommended by the sentencing court. Rather, all inmates serving terms of imprisonment must be initially designated by the Bureau to prison or jail facilities. Second, pre-release CCC designations are now limited in duration to the last 10 percent of an inmate's prison term of service, not to exceed six months. The Bureau's procedure changes were prompted by the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel, which reviewed and reinterpreted the Bureau's statutory authority to designate an inmate's place of imprisonment, taking into consideration relevant U.S. Sentencing Guideline provisions.

In terms of impact on the inmate population, the December 2002 procedural change temporarily decreased our CCC population and shortened the amount of time inmates spent in CCCs. However, both length of stay in a CCC and our national CCC population levels have rebounded, returning to levels comparable to those that existed prior to the procedural change. More importantly, this change did not affect the rate at which inmates are transferred to CCCs to assist them in their preparation for release. Since the end of 2002, we have continued to release over 77 percent of all eligible inmates through a halfway house; and we are providing, on average, between three to four months of community-based programming for inmates releasing through a CCC.

Q: The sentences of offenders serving a prison term in the federal system also may include a period of probation or supervision following release. How does BOP work with federal probation officers as a prisoner moves to release status?

A: We have been working closely with the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (AO) to enhance information sharing before, during, and after incarceration. At the front end of the process, probation officers gather information we need; then during incarceration, we gather information probation officers need for the final stage—community supervision.

The Interagency Committee for Needed Enhancements to the Electronic Exchange of Data (IC-NEED) is an example of collaborative efforts designed to improve communication effectiveness and information flow. This workgroup was originally established to promote data exchange between the AO and the Bureau for research purposes. However, given broader government and public interest in inmate re-entry and its relevance to the Bureau's Inmate Skills Development initiative, the potential benefits to including other agencies became obvious. This partnership now includes representatives from the AO, U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services System, Office of the Federal Detention Trustee, USMS, U.S. Sentencing Commission, U.S. Parole Commission, and the Bureau. The purpose of the group is to establish common data elements (definitions, formats, etc.) and the mechanisms for efficiently sharing each agency's operational data in an electronic format. Instrumental to data exchange is the identification of a common case identifier. The workgroup grappled with this issue and the collective agreement was to use the USMS' number. More recently the focus has been on working with the AO on the automation of the presentence report (PSR). The AO asked for input regarding what other agencies need that is not currently in the PSR, as well as items needing modification. The automation of the PSR will itemize every data element, so that all of the PSR data needs of affected agencies will be delivered in an electronic format. This will provide the Bureau with tremendous efficiency; everything that we currently extract from that document, like the information needed for security and medical designations, drug and mental health treatment identification, and so forth, will come to us electronically. This will allow for a complete automation of our designation process, perhaps requiring only a visual confirmation by a staff member, rather than the labor intensive process currently required. The AO is making incredible progress on its development agenda. In exchange, the AO will receive data on each inmate's progress toward skills development while in Bureau custody, including, for example, drug treatment, job training, and academic training performance. Furthermore, we will be able to easily report who is expected to be released at any point in the future. This way, probation officers will know who will be on their caseload next week, next month, or next year, and what special housing, program, or other needs they might have to arrange for this individual.

Additionally, Bureau staff complete a Supervised Release Statement and a final progress report at least 90 days prior to an inmate's release to the community or upon referral to a halfway house. The Supervised Release Statement contains the inmate's proposed release residence, proposed employment, conditions of release, and detainer information if applicable. The progress report provides a summary of the inmate's institutional adjustment, including release preparation. These documents hopefully facilitate the work of federal probation officers in preparing for supervision of releasing inmates.