Justice and Law Enforcement:

The Department of Justice Can Do More To Help Improve Conditions at State and Local Correctional Facilities

GGD-80-77: Published: Sep 15, 1980. Publicly Released: Sep 15, 1980.


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Unsafe, unsanitary conditions in many State prisons and local jails endanger the health and well-being of inmates, correctional staff, and visitors. Correctional institutions need adequate maintenance programs, trained personnel, and inspection programs which can detect deficiencies and ensure that they are corrected. Problem areas include fire prevention, food preparation and storage, accident prevention, hygiene, temperature and light levels, pest control, and air quality. The responsibility for improving conditions rests primarily with State and local governments, but there is a need for increased Federal participation. There are five Department of Justice agencies involved with conditions in prisons and jails: the Civil Rights Division, the Marshals Service, the Bureau of Prisons, the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA), and the National Institute of Corrections. These agencies can assist State and local correctional officials in improving health and safety standards in their prisons and jails.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendation for Executive Action

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should: (1) expand the role of the Civil Rights Division so that it assists troubled institutions desiring assistance in solving environmental health problems, even though the conditions do not warrant civil action; (2) upgrade the Marshals Service's jail inspection services program, by including better training, using its resources and expertise to assist jail administrators and inspectors in improving their effectiveness, and exploring the possibilities of increased coordination and cooperation with State and local inspection agencies; (3) direct the Bureau of Prisons to work with the National Institute of Corrections to set up a mechanism for disseminating information on its environmental health experience to correctional officers at all types of institutions, and for opening more Bureau training to State and local officials; (4) encourage and assist State and local officials to develop maintenance programs by directing LEAA to support the development of maintenance standards to be used as models by correctional officials and of detailed guidelines which will assist administrators in implementing plans to meet the standards; (5) establish a program within the National Institute of Corrections for disseminating information regarding equipment and materials suitable for correctional facilities; and (6) encourage the National Institute of Corrections to expand its environmental health training programs to reach a larger number of correctional officials and include a wider range of safety and sanitation programs.

    Agency Affected:

    Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

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