A bipartisan measure to increase federal oversight and accountability in the federal prison system is a step in the right direction, the bill sponsors say.
This week, U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) introduced the bipartisan Federal Prisons Accountability Act of 2023, which would make the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) Director a U.S. Senate-confirmed position.
Sens. Ossoff and McConnell joined with Senators Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ), Rand Paul (R-KY), Mike Lee (R-UT), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), John Cornyn (R-TX), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), and Mike Braun (R-IN) to introduce the bipartisan bill.
Currently, the BOP Director is appointed by U.S. Attorney General and not subject to Senate confirmation, despite having significant authority over taxpayer dollars and over 30,000 Federal employees. The bipartisan bill would make the BOP Director a Senate-confirmed position for a single 10-year term, following a nomination from the President of the United States.
“Last Congress, the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations revealed the depth of chaos and dysfunction that has undermined security and civil rights in the Bureau of Prisons for over a decade. I’m pleased to partner with Sen. McConnell on this bipartisan bill that asserts the Senate’s authority to confirm nominees for BOP’s leadership and hold them to the highest standards,” Sen. Ossoff said.
Last year, there were a number of bipartisan investigations of corruption, abuse, and misconduct within the Federal prison system. The bipartisan investigations uncovered a lack of oversight, leading to long-term failures that likely undermined public safety and civil rights; contributed to loss of life; and jeopardized the health and safety of incarcerated people and staff.
Sen. Ossoff also passed into law his bipartisan Prison Camera Reform Act to reduce violence and civil rights abuses in America’s prisons and earlier this year, Sens. Ossoff, Braun, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, and Joe Manchin (D-WV) introduced the bipartisan Federal Prison Oversight Act to establish new, independent oversight of the BOP.
“The Senate plays a vital role in staffing the federal government, evaluating the qualifications of more than a thousand presidential nominees to ensure transparency and accountability. The Director of the Bureau of Prisons oversees more than 34,000 employees and a multi-billion dollar budget, and should be subject to Senate review and confirmation as well,” said Sen. McConnell. “Our bipartisan bill would extend the Senate’s advice and consent role to the Bureau of Prisons Director and expand supervision over this federal agency. The thousands of Americans – and hundreds of Kentuckians – employed by the Bureau of Prisons deserve Senate oversight and an added layer of protection from harm.”
“No agency as large as the Bureau of Prisons should have so little accountability. Our bill ensures the concerns of those who work in prisons are heard and acted upon and will provide much needed Senate oversight of a taxpayer funded system,” said Dr. Paul.
“By requiring Senate confirmation of the Bureau of Prisons Director and establishing a single, 10-year term, the Federal Prisons Accountability Act underscores the reverence with which we approach one of the most consequential actions the government can take—imprisonment. This bipartisan bill reflects our commitment to ensuring that this crucial position remains accountable to the American people. As lawmakers, it is our constitutional duty to provide advice and consent, and this bill fortifies the pillars of transparency and oversight within our federal prison system,” said Sen. Lee.
Click here to read the bipartisan Federal Prisons Accountability Act of 2023.