Federal Jail Bedspace:

Cost Savings and Greater Accuracy Possible in the Capacity Expansion Plan

GGD-92-141: Published: Sep 24, 1992. Publicly Released: Oct 26, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the 5-year bedspace plan developed by the U.S. Marshals Service and the Bureau of Prisons (BOP).

GAO found that: (1) BOP should revise federal jail design standards to allow double-bunking; (2) double-bunking 50 percent of fiscal year 1996 bedspace could result in savings of as much as $61 million in the bedspace acquisition program; (3) contract bedspace programs should be better planned and emphasized; (4) the Service may lose Cooperative Agreement Program bedspace because the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) may cut funding on the basis of its belief that this bedspace is less economical than BOP bedspace; (5) Cooperative Agreement Program bedspace is cost-effective and fills needs which BOP cannot; (6) listings of BOP bedspace available for Service use in fiscal year 1996 contained inaccuracies relative to 19 of 31 locations; and (7) BOP failed to consider sentenced inmate or Immigration and Naturalization Service bedspace needs.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: OMB does not agree with the recommendation and believes that it is already doing what GAO recommended.

    Recommendation: The Director, OMB, should reexamine OMB concerns about the cost-effectiveness of Cooperative Agreement Program bedspace and more carefully evaluate and balance a variety of cost elements in assessing the cost-effectiveness of this program.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Marshals Service developed an Annual Detention Assessment to provide guidance to districts for conducting assessments. The assessments will provide headquarters with information on each local jail in the area and on whether the Marshals Service uses the facility. The assessment was distributed for comment in April 1993. In June 1996, the Marshals Service issued detailed instructions for its annual survey of jail space needs. The instructions included identification of jail bed needs, beds available by location and facility (including those operated by the Bureau of Prisons) and used (by location and facility). GAO considers this recommendation to be fully implemented.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should require the Director, U.S. Marshals Service, to periodically assess the availability of Intergovernmental Agreement bedspace in each court city. In doing so, the Service should provide additional guidance to the districts on how to make these assessments.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The BOP rated capacity policy was recently amended to provide double-bunking for 25 percent of high security and detention facilities. The recent policy revision has been incorporated into the FY 1994 budget submission. The rated capacity policy changes discussed above have been applied to existing BOP detention facilities, as well as requested projects. The revised standards will be utilized in all justifications for additional detention capacity.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should require the Director, BOP, to use the revised standards to determine the rated capacity of federal detention bedspace and to justify the need for new detention cells.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: BOP amended its rated capacity policy to provide double-bunking for 25 percent of the cells in detention facilities. This revision was incorporated into the FY 1994 budget submission. The effect was to reduce future expansion funding needs for detention beds, but BOP did not quantify the savings.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should require the Director, BOP, to revise the BOP design standard for jails to ensure that its expansion plans and budget requests are premised on double-bunking where feasible and to limit single-bunking to those locations where double-bunking is clearly not feasible.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Department of Justice and BOP, USMS, and the Immigration and Naturalization Service, responsible for preparing the Federal Detention Plan, intend for the plan to accurately reflect the bed space available in BOP detention facilities for inmates in all three agencies. The plan was modified to identify available detention beds. The plan was initially submitted to Congress in December 1993. The FY 1996 plan included 25-percent double-bunking in INS and Marshals detention space and identified, by facility, BOP space available.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should require the Director, BOP, to adopt procedures to ensure that the detention bedspace plan reflects, as accurately as possible, the expected number of BOP bedspaces which will be available to the Service in fiscal year 1996.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

 

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