Community-Based Correctional Programs Could Be More Extensively Used Within the Federal Criminal Justice System

GGD-82-69: Published: Jul 2, 1982. Publicly Released: Jul 2, 1982.

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GAO conducted a study of alternatives to probation and confinement in a secured institution for the rehabilitation of nonviolent offenders.

Traditionally, the federal courts have used two options for sentencing offenders, probation and confinement in an institution. GAO work has shown that there is a need for an alternative that will help fill the void between these options. Federal officials have stated that some incarcerated federal offenders could be housed in less secure settings, and several states already have such alternative sentencing programs. The Bureau of Prisons and the Federal Probation Service developed plans for a pilot project designed to meet this need, but the project was postponed because of fiscal year 1982 budget cuts. GAO believes that the decision not to go ahead with the project should be reconsidered. Since the federal prison population has risen above capacity, and indications are that it will continue to rise, GAO believes that it would be beneficial to begin to test alternative sentencing options as soon as possible. Such an approach would enable the Bureau of Prisons to more effectively cope with its overcrowding problems. In addition, GAO discovered that the Bureau uses halfway houses to help incarcerated offenders make the transition from the institution to the community. GAO found that the Bureau could offset a larger portion of its operating costs of the program by enforcing its policy that requires halfway house residents to pay a share of their room and board costs.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Department of Justice should direct the Director of the Bureau of Prisons to reconsider the decision to postpone the alternative sentencing pilot project.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Federal Prison Service officials believe that existing policy is satisfactory and that there is no need to modify it at this time.

    Recommendation: The Bureau of Prisons should determine what action halfway houses take regarding the collection of rent from employed inmates. If the Bureau finds that unjustifiable inconsistencies still exist regarding whether inmates pay or the amount they pay, the Bureau should revise its policy and implementing instructions to ensure that charges to inmates for rent are made on an equitable basis.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice: Bureau of Prisons


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