Federal Prison Expansion:

Overcrowding Reduced but Inmate Population Growth May Raise Issue Again

GGD-94-48: Published: Dec 14, 1993. Publicly Released: Jan 4, 1994.

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Pursuant to congressional requests, GAO reviewed: (1) the Federal Bureau of Prisons' (BOP) progress in reducing overcrowding and increasing capacity at its facilities; (2) BOP progress in meeting its expansion plans; and (3) the impact of sentencing policies on prison expansion.

GAO found that: (1) BOP has improved its efforts to expand prison capacity by making better use of double-bunking and halfway houses and has evaluated surplus military property for prison use; (2) although BOP has the authority to contract with the private sector for the operation of its facilities, it does not support the use of private prisons for its adult inmate population; (3) during 1992, BOP increased its total prison capacity by approximately 6,000 beds and reduced overcrowding by 9 percent; (4) approved construction and expansion plans should decrease overcrowding systemwide to about 4 percent by 1997; (5) BOP has redesignated the missions of five of its facilities to accommodate its expansion needs at low- and minimum-security facilities; (6) the opening of some new low-security facilities has been delayed due to construction delays; (7) BOP has identified 83 unused or underutilized military properties as potential sites for correctional facilities; (8) surplus military property would provide BOP with expansion capacity at a substantially lower cost than construction of new correctional facilities; and (9) tough sentencing policies have a direct impact on the growth of the federal prison population and BOP expansion needs.

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